So much for rehabilitating the National Front: two weeks before the French head to the polls, Marine Le Pen has sparked outrage over comments denying French complicity in a wartime roundup of Jews. Reuters:
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen drew protests from her political rivals and the Israeli government on Monday by denying the French state’s responsibility for a mass arrest of Jews in Paris during World War Two. […]
“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” Le Pen said on Sunday, referring to the German-ordered roundup by French police of 13,000 Jews in July 1942. […]
Le Pen’s rivals pounced on her comments, which could set back her attempts to clean up the image of her anti-immigration National Front and distance it from the anti-Semitic views of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s founder.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the Le Pen family tree—and her rivals aren’t going to let the voters forget it. Emmanuel Macron is already hammering the point home, seeking to tie Le Pen to her anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying father, whom she expelled from the party in 2015.
Though Jacques Chirac owned up to the state’s responsibility for the Vel d’Hiv roundup in 1995, Le Pen is relitigating the issue, tapping into buried resentments by attempting to deflect responsibility for France’s wartime crimes to individual collaborators and Vichy officials. “In reality, our children have been taught they had every reason to criticize [France], to see only its darkest aspects,” Le Pen has said. “I want them to be proud to be French again.”
However Le Pen spins this, her words are a reminder of the ugly strains of anti-Semitism and historical revisionism still present in the National Front, despite her efforts to give the party a respectable makeover. Voters who up until now may have preferred to sit the elections out may have just been given a solid reason not to.