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Vichy-Era Collaboration With Nazis Underlines Imperative of Fighting Antisemitism, French President Macron Declares

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

French President Emmanuel Macron visiting the new Holocaust memorial at Pithviers in northern France. Photo: Reuters/Christophe Petit Tesson

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday delivered a stinging denunciation of the World War II-era Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazi occupation during a commemoration ceremony for the 13,000 Jews deported in the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup of July 1942.

“Eight decades ago, Vichy France betrayed its children by delivering thousands of them to their executioners,” Macron declared at the dedication of a new Holocaust memorial in the former train station at Pithviers in northern France.

“It is France’s duty, to be true to itself, to recognize this and not to give in to this contemporary fight against antisemitism,” the president continued.

According to Yad Vashem, 4,500 French policemen took part in the operation, imprisoning some 13,000 Jews — including 4,000 children — in the Velodrome d’Hiver bicycle stadium in the capital in crowded and unsanitary conditions. They were then taken to concentration camps near Paris.

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At the camps, children were separated from their parents, who were mostly sent to Auschwitz and murdered. Some 3,000 children were left behind, and in September were deported to Auschwitz as well, where they were killed.

For decades, the French government and much of the public blamed the roundup on the Germans and denied any responsibility. In 1995, however, French President Jacques Chirac publicly apologized for the roundup, and in 2017 Macron admitted French responsibility for it. The issue surfaced again during this year’s presidential election, when a failed far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, claimed that the Vichy regime had attempted to save French-born Jews from the Nazis by sacrificing those born abroad.

Macron was accompanied on Sunday by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, survivors of the Holcoaust who spent the post-war period hunting Nazi war criminals, as well as Interior Minister  Gérald Darmanin and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

Macron also warned of the dangers of resurgent antisemitism, saying that hatred against Jews “interferes in debates on television, plays on the complacency of certain political forces [and also] thrives around a new form of historical revisionism.”

He added that those “indulge these lies plan to destroy the Republic and the unity of the nation.”

Naming some of the leaders of the Vichy regime, among them Marshal Phillipe Pétain, a World War I hero who served the Nazi occupation, and Pierre Laval, a former socialist and French Prime Minister who served on the Vichy Council of State, Macron emphasized that “none of them wanted to save Jews.”

“It is a falsification of history to say otherwise,” Macron argued, going on to warn that “we are not yet done with antisemitism.”

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