Outrage as Le Pen defends Nazi occupation of France

13th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - The Paris prosecutor's office announced a preliminary enquiry Thursday to determine if the veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen broke the law when he described the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two as "not especially inhumane."

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - The Paris prosecutor's office announced a preliminary enquiry Thursday to determine if the veteran far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen broke the law when he described the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two as "not especially inhumane."

The investigation was to focus on whether Le Pen's comments, which were made to the extreme right-wing magazine Rivarol, constitute "denial of crimes against humanity" or "apology for war crimes" - both of which are criminal offences.

The 76 year-old founder of the National Front (FN) party caused outrage when he said that "in France at least the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses - inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometres."

"If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn't have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees.

"It's not just from the European Union and globalisation that we need to deliver our country, but also from the lies about its history," he told the weekly.

The remarks drew immediate comparisons with Le Pen's oft-quoted description of the Jewish holocaust as a "detail" of World War Two, and were universally condemned by Jewish and anti-racist groups, veterans' organisations and political parties.

Justice Minister Dominique Perben called the comments "despicable," and said Le Pen would have to "explain what he said before a court of law" if the investigation indicated that he had committed a criminal offence.

However Le Pen hit back Thursday, saying that it was "astonishing and shocking that the justice minister has not accorded me the presumption of innocence."

"It is all totally incoherent and goes to prove one thing: that there are a number of subjects in our country that it is forbidden to approach - even from afar - because they are the preserve of a select group of people," Le Pen said.

With the help of the collaborationist Vichy government the German authorities deported more than 70,000 French Jews to death camps, and thousands of French civilians died in reprisals by the German army - especially towards the end of the war.

However historical debate has raged over the degree of French acceptance of the 1940-1944 occupation, which for most of the time was relatively peaceful compared to the experiences of countries in eastern Europe.

Le Pen caused added outrage among survivors of the June 1944 massacre in the southern village of Oradour-sur-Glane - one of the iconic moments in French histories of World War Two, in which hundreds of civilians were murdered by a division of the SS.

Hinting that the official story of Nazi brutality was simplistic, he said: "There is a lot more to be said about that."

Revisionist historians have claimed that the bloodshed was largely the fault of resistance fighters who hid explosives in the church where most of the victims were burned to death.

"He would do well to find out the historic facts about Oradour before putting forward these scandalous revisionist theories which bring shame to the memory of the martyrs and their families," said Richard Jezierski, director of the Remembrance Centre at the devastated village.

© AFP

Subject: French News

 

0 Comments To This Article