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1ST LEAD Le Pen condemned for denying France's guilt in Jewish deportations By Miranda Lee Murray and Pol O Gradaigh, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris/Tel Aviv (dpa) - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen came under fire from her rivals in the presidential election, French Jewish groups and Israel Monday after saying France was not responsible for a mass round-up of Jews for deportation during World War II.

The row appeared to mark a blow to Le Pen‘s painstaking attempts to moderate her National Front party‘s image.

Her "de-demonization" efforts have helped bring her to joint first place in the opinion polls ahead of this month‘s first round of voting.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned Le Pen‘s remarks about the July 16, 1942 round-up by French police of more than 13,000 foreign Jews, most of whom were deported to German death camps and never returned.

"This declaration is contrary to historical truth, as expressed in the statements of successive French presidents," the ministry said.

Le Pen‘s main rival for the presidency, centrist Emmanuel Macron, said that she had "shown the true face of the French extreme right" with "a grave political and historical error."

Conservative hopeful Francois Fillon meanwhile charged that the National Front still counted in its ranks "many who are nostalgic for the Vichy regime," which collaborated with German occupying forces during the war.

Le Pen had been asked during a television interview on Sunday if former president Jacques Chirac was wrong when, in 1995, he acknowledged France‘s responsibility for the round-up, carried out by the collaborationist authorities at the behest of Germany.

Thousands of the victims were interned in squalid conditions at Paris‘s Vel d‘Hiv cycling track before being put on trains to Auschwitz.

The National Front leader replied that "if someone was responsible, it was those who were in power at the time. It was not France."

She argued that French children were being taught to see only the darkest parts of their country‘s history. "I want us to be proud of being French again," she asserted.

Le Pen is neck-and-neck with Macron ahead of the first round of the election, set for April 23. Polls suggest she is likely to lose out in the decisive second round on May 7.

She has worked to rebrand and "de-demonize" the National Front, long seen as beyond the pale, since taking over as leader from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011.

The older Le Pen has since been expelled for his repeated comments downplaying the Holocaust, and the party has cracked down on anti-Semitic comments by its members.

But the main body representing France‘s Jewish community responded to Marine Le Pen‘s comments by calling on voters to "block the road before the National Front on April 23 and March 7."

"Marine Le Pen‘s remarks fit within the Vichyist and collaborationist tradition of her father and the founders of the National Front," the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France said.

The row comes as the first round of the election campaign appears more and more unpredictable.

Radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon has been climbing steadily in the polls since his lively performances in two television debates, closing the gap with Fillon for third place.

Latest polls show the two on 17 to 19 per cent, while Le Pen and Macron remain ahead on 23 to 24 per cent.

The top two candidates in the first round go through to the May run-off.


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(26.04.2017 21:37)

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