France

Hollande vows to fight anti-Semitism at Vel d'Hiv round-up commemoration

Reuters/Pierre Verdy

French President François Hollande vowed to track down and punish anti-Semitism at a ceremony to honour Jews deported under the wartime German occupation. The roundup, which led to thousands of Jews being sent to Nazi death camps, was a “crime committed in France by France”, he declared.

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Amid fears that Mohamed Merah’s Jewish school murders signal a revival of anti-Semitism in France, Hollande writes “everywhere it appears it must be exposed and punished” in the introduction to a booklet distributed to mark the 1942 Vel d’Hiv raids in the Paris region.

Parliamentary elections 2012

“All ideologies of exclusion, all forms of intolerance, all fanaticism, which try and develop the logic of hatred, will find the [French] republic standing in their way,” the statement says.

Hollande, who attended a ceremony to commemorate the raids on Sunday morning, also accepts French responsibility for them, unlike his Socialist predecessor as president, François Mitterrand, or General Charles De Gaulle.

They argued that the only legitimate France during the occupation was the Free French, led by De Gaulle from London, and the resistance.

It was not until 1995 that the official version changed with president Jacques Chirac’s statement that the crimes were in part a French responsibility.

On 16 and 17 July 1942, 13,152 foreign Jews were rounded up in Paris by French police, before being deported to extermination camps, most notably Auschwitz.

Among them, 8,160 people, including 4,115 children, were held in Paris’s Velodrome stadium for four days. Many died from the poor conditions or suicide. The remaining 4,992 people were transferred to the Drancy internment camp, just outside of Paris, before being sent to the concentration camps.

The Vel d’Hiv roundup is the largest of its kind to take place in France during World War II. Only approximately 100 people are known to have survived, and just a handful of children.

Hollande’s statement adds that the deportations were “also a crime against France, a betrayal of its values”.

During Sunday’s ceremony Serge Klarsfeld, the president of a group representing the children of deportees, pointed out that “if 11,000 Jewish children were deported, 60,000 children were saved by the French population”, adding that “anti-Jewish hatred is again killing Jews”.

Richard Pasquier, the president of the Crif, an umbrella group of Jewish organisations, told Hollande, “The Jewish community has confidence in you and has confidence in the republic” to face up to “this anti-Semitism that has expressed itself in our country with an unheard of violence”.

Hollande's appearance at the Vel d'Hiv ceremony inspired his partner, Valérie Trierweiler, to start tweeting again, following  a break due to the controversy caused by her support for the opponent of his ex-wife Ségolène Royal during this year's parliamentary election.

Trierweiler desribed the president's speech as "magnificent" and "very moving".

She has deleted the tweet that started the Twittergate row.

On Saturday Hollande visited Chirac at his home in the Corrèze region as well as his former constituency of Tulle.

Before the election campaign Chirac, who is a member of then-incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP, let slip that he intended to vote for Hollande, although he later half-heartedly claimed the remark was a joke.

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