Outrage After Le Pen Downplays French Role In Holocaust

Emmanuel Macron, who is currently tied with Le Pen for the first round of elections on April 23, called her comments "a serious mistake"

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Apr 10, 2017 at 1:54 PM ET

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s conservative National Front and a top contender in the 2017 presidential elections, has sparked outrage with the claim that France was “not responsible” for deporting thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

In 1942, the French police arrested as many as 13,000 Jews and deported them to Auschwitz, while the country was under Nazi occupation. Current leader François Hollande and former president Jacques Chirac have both apologized for the role France played in the Holocaust.

“I think that in general, more generally, if there are any officials, it is those who were in power at the time, it is not France. It’s not France,” Le Pen said on French television on Sunday.

With less than two weeks left before the first round of the election, her statement has drawn criticism from her political rivals. “Some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who is neck-and-neck in the polls with Le Pen for the first round of elections on April 23, said on Monday.

Le Pen, who has led the National Front since 2011, opposes the European Union, favors a national currency and is sharply anti-immigration, but she has gone to great lengths to distance herself from the National Front’s anti-Semitic past. In 2015, she expelled her father Jean-Marie, who founded the party in 1972, after he said the Nazi gas chambers were a “detail of history.” She has since tried to establish ties with France’s Jewish community and gain their support.

CRIF, an umbrella body for French Jewish organizations, condemned the statement and said that it revealed the National Front’s true intentions. “Her declarations are an insult to France,” the group said in a statement on Monday.

The Israel’s Foreign Ministry also called the statement “contrary to historical truth” and said it was emblematic of rising anti-Semitism in France.

On Monday, Le Pen followed up on her statement by distinguishing France from the Vichy regime, which helped Nazi Germany deport a total of 76,000 Jews. “I condemn unreservedly the collaborationist regime of Vichy. I do not give it any legitimacy,” she wrote on Twitter.

France will hold their first election round on April 23. If no candidate wins the majority vote, the two frontrunners, currently projected to be Le Pen and Macron, will face a final round on May 7.