Chirac honours French who saved Jews in WWII

18th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac was leading a ceremony in Paris Thursday evening honouring the more than 2,700 French citizens recognised as by Israel as "righteous among the Gentiles" for their efforts to save Jews from the Nazis in World War II.

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac was leading a ceremony in Paris Thursday evening honouring the more than 2,700 French citizens recognised as by Israel as "righteous among the Gentiles" for their efforts to save Jews from the Nazis in World War II.

The service -- to be attended by some 250 of the "righteous" as well as Jewish survivors from the period -- was due to take place in the Pantheon, the converted church in the Latin Quarter that serves as a mausoleum for France's national heroes.

Accompanied by 79 year-old former minister Simone Veil -- herself a survivor of Auschwitz -- the president was to deliver a speech celebrating the memory of those who defied the prevailing indifference to hide Jewish families from the Gestapo and French police.

A plaque will also be unveiled in the crypt.

Chirac, 74, is expected to leave the presidency in May, and aides said he wants his legacy to be a country that is reconciled with all aspects of its history.

Shortly after taking office Chirac was the first president to recognise the role of the French state in the deportation of some 75,000 Jews, almost all of them to their deaths in Nazi extermination camps.

"By your loyalty to its essential principles, you (the righteous) represent that which is most universal about France. Thanks to you ... we can look France and our history straight in the eyes," the president was expected to say Thursday, according to a copy of his speech obtained by Le Monde.

"Sometimes in our history we see moments that are deeply dark. But there is also there that which is best and most glorious. We must take our history in its entirety. It is our heritage and our identity ... Yes, we can be proud of our history! Yes we can be proud of being French!" he was to say.

The "righteous among the nations" are nominated by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel according to strict criteria. There are 2,725 in France, the largest number after Poalnd and the Netherlands, and 16,000 in Europe as a whole.

Among French bearers of the title is the entire village of Chambon-sur-Lignon in the mountains of the Massif Central, whose Protestant pastor organised shelter for scores of Jewish refugees.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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