President Francois Hollande has recognised France’s role in the Holocaust at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of a notorious round-up of Jews.
The country’s wartime collaboration with its Nazi occupiers was long a taboo subject. It was not until 1995 that a French leader, Jacques Chirac, acknowledged the part France played.
Hollande paid tribute to his predecessor, at the site of the Vel d’Hiv stadium where victims were held after French police arrested them.
“The truth is that the crime was committed in France, by France,” he said.
And just months after Mohamed Merah targeted Jewish children in his killing spree in Toulouse, Hollande added: “The Republic will doggedly pursue all anti-Semitic acts and remarks that could cause French Jews to feel anxious in their own country.”
Over 13,000 Jewish men, women and children were rounded up in Paris by Vichy French authorities over two days in July 1942. Most were held at the stadium and deported to death camps.
Hollande’s mentor and fellow Socialist President François Mitterrand, was strongly criticised for refusing to apologise over France’s role.