Monday 21 August 2017

France has to accept blame for Holocaust - Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris. Photo: Reuters

Angela Charlton Paris

President Emmanuel Macron has denounced France's collaboration in the Holocaust, lashing out at those who try to minimise the country's role in sending tens of thousands of Jews to their deaths.

After he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a Holocaust commemoration, Mr Macron also appealed for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Worried that Mr Netanyahu is backing away from commitment to a two-state solution, Mr Macron described Jewish settlement construction as a threat to international hopes for peace.

Commemorating 75 years since a mass round-up of Jews during the darkest chapter of modern French history, Mr Macron insisted that "it was indeed France that organised this".

"Not a single German" was directly involved, he said, but French police collaborating with the Nazis.

Holocaust survivors recounted wrenching stories at the ceremony at the site of Vel d'Hiv stadium outside Paris, where police herded some 13,000 people on July 16-17, 1942, before they were deported to camps. More than 4,000 were children. Fewer than 100 survived.

They were among some 76,000 Jews deported from France to Nazi camps.

It was a half century later when then-President Jacques Chirac became the first French leader to acknowledge the state's role in the Holocaust's horrors.

Mr Macron dismissed arguments by French far-right leaders and others that the collaborationist Vichy regime didn't represent France.

"It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness. Yes, it's convenient, but it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie."

French Jewish leaders hailed Mr Macron's speech - even as critics railed at him online, where renewed anti-Semitism has flourished. Mr Macron pledged to fight such racism, and called for a thorough investigation into the recent killing of a Parisian woman believed linked to anti-Jewish sentiment.

Zealots

Mr Netanyahu said that "recently we have witnessed a rise of extremist forces that seek to destroy not only the Jews, but of course the Jewish state as well, but well beyond that. ... The zealots of militant Islam, who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well. We must stand against them together."

Pro-Palestinian and other activists protested about Mr Netanyahu's appearance in Paris, criticising Jewish settlement policy and the blockade of Gaza.

Mr Macron condemned an attack last week that killed two Israeli police officers at a Jerusalem shrine revered by Jews and Muslims, and said he was committed to Israel's security - but warned that continued Jewish settlement construction threatens peace efforts.

"I call for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the framework of the search for a solution of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in recognised, secure borders with Jerusalem as the capital," he said.

At his side, Mr Netanyahu said: "We share the same desire for a peaceful Middle East."

Irish Independent

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