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French politician says 'Hitler could've killed more Roma'

Rom encampment
Rom encampment © Reuters

A French politician affronted an intinerant Roma community yesterday saying that Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime could have killed more. "Maybe Hitler had not killed enough," Gilles Bourdouleix, 53, was quoted as saying by French newspaper Le Courrier de l'Ouest.

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Bourdouleix, a member of the National Assembly for the centrist UDI party and mayor of Cholet in northwestern France, made the remark after visiting 150 caravans set up at a camp site by members of evangelic community Vie et Lumière outside Cholet.

French towns with a population of more than 5,000 people are obligated by law to provide open-air space for semi-nomadic people, though only half comply.

The mayor, who is already facing a complaint from the International League of Human Rights, initially denied making the remark, saying the paper had skewed his words.

However, after a recording was posted on the paper's site he came clean.

Prosecutors in France said they will examine whether he can be charged with "justifying a crime against humanity" for his comments.

Jean Louis-Borloo, former environment minister and president of the UDI, also said that Bourdouleix would be excluded from his party.

France has long grappled with how, and to what extent to try and integrate travelling communities who continue to be shunned in French society.

President François Hollande made this a campaign promise and called for the end of shantytowns and improved conditions for the Roma that would include housing and integration into society.

However, he's done little to improve their living conditions and even proposed a bill last week that would make it easier to evict Roma from illegal settlements in an effort to allay growing frustrations over illegal camps.

In 2010, former President Nicolas Sarkozy took severe measures to deport thousands of Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria.

However, his policy sparked international criticism, as well as reproach from the European Commission.

Anger over Roma camps surfaced earlier this month after Nice's centre-right Mayor Christian Estrosi had an illegally-settled camp dismantled from a sports field and vowed to "crush" the "delinquents."

He also urged other mayors to revolt against what he called the Socialist's lenient policies.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned Estrosi's comments as xenophobic and accused him of siding with the far-right.

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