Speaking during a ceremony at the Vel d’Hiv Holocaust memorial monument in Paris, President of France, Emmanuel Macron, confronted the record of French complicity in the Holocaust. Macron acknowledged France’s collaboration with the Nazis and its direct role in the roundup and deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps. His speech on July 16, 2017, marked the roundup of Jews by French police officers seventy five years ago.

On July 16 and 17, 1942, under the direction of René Bousquet, Secretary General of the Vichy police, French police arrested 13,152 Jews in Paris. The Jews were then held for several days under deplorable conditions in the Velodrome d’Hiver (the Winter Velodrome).

Families were literally torn apart, as adults were separated from young children at collection points and at French or German assembly camps. These events, however, stirred public anger. Later, French authorities altered this policy and began deporting whole families together. The final destination for these deportees was Auschwitz, where most of them perished.

Transports of Jews from France continued until August 1944, when German forces in Paris surrendered. Of about 75,000 Jews deported from France only some 2,500 returned alive, while a further 4,000 died in detention on French soil. France has been slow to come to terms with the “dark years” of the German occupation, which still casts its shadow over French politics and culture today.1

Although previous French presidents have acknowledged France’s involvement in the roundup of Jews and the Holocaust, Macron’s speech was the first presidential address to name individual collaborators, such as René Bousquet, who helped the Nazis kill Jews. “France organized the roundups,” Macron said. “Not a single German participated.” And so France “in almost every aspect organised the death” of the victims.2

Macron went on to point out that many who served in the Vichy government found a place in the free French government after the country’s liberation in World War II. Charles de Gaulle and other post-war leaders remained silent about collaboration, preferring appeasement and reconciliation.

Macron also condemned anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism, as well as making what has been described as an unprecedented statement from a leader of France in support of the Jewish state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the event, was the first Israeli leader to speak at the annual ceremony in memory of the Vel d’Hiv roundup.

Netanyahu acknowledged French citizens who protected Jews during World War II and vowed never to let the Holocaust be repeated. Following the Holocaust, he said, the State of Israel was established to guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a Holocaust again.3

But there is only one true guarantee that the Jews will continue to survive and that is the declaration of the God of Israel: “though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” ( Jer 30:11). For Yahweh’s purpose is sure, and He will fulfil His promises to the Fathers of Israel as certainly as He has gathered the Jews to their land in these last days: “For thus saith Yahweh, Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them” ( Jer 32:42).

References:

  1. “France” in, Holocaust Encyclopaedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article. php?ModuleId=10005429 (29/07/2017)
  2. Cnaan Liphshiz, “6 reasons why Macron’s speech about the Holocaust in France was groundbreaking”, The Times of Israel July 18, 2017 http://www.timeso srael.com/6-reasons-why-macrons-speech-about-the-holocaust-in-france-was-groundbreaking/ (29/07/2017)
  3. Raphael Ahren, “Macron denounces anti-Zionism as a new form of anti-Semitism”, The Times of Israel, July 16, 2017 [online] http://www.timesofisrael.com/macron-denounces-anti-zionism-as-a-new-form-of-anti-semitism/ (29/09/2017)