Macron’s message: Never again
In a battle with the far right, centrist candidate reminds voters of French collaboration with Nazis
Amid worries about rising nationalism, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron paid homage Sunday to the tens of thousands of French Jews killed in the Holocaust, with a sombre, simple message to voters: Never again.
Chants of “Macron, President!” mixed with tears of sorrowful remembrance as he visited the Holocaust Memorial in Paris, walking past panels bearing the names of those deported to death in Nazi camps, while Holocaust survivors and children of its victims watched.
It was the second time in three days that Macron visited a site tied to France’s wartime history, as he seeks to remind voters of the shame of France’s Nazi collaboration — and especially of the anti-Semitic past of his rival Marine Le Pen’s farright National Front party. They face a presidential run-off May 7.
Le Pen, who has worked for years to detoxify her party’s image, laid a wreath at a memorial to France’s deported Jews in Marseille Sunday, a national day of remembrance.
Yet the gesture can’t undo decades of anti-Semitism that poison her party. Her father was convicted of describing the gas chambers as a “detail” of history, and her temporary party leader was removed last week for similar comments.
After visiting the Holocaust Memorial and a wall honouring French people who protected Jews during the German occupation, Macron said: “We have a duty today to their memory.” The 39-year-old former economy minister lamented a “moral weakening that could tempt some people to say all things are relative. That could tempt others to negate the Holocaust — a position some people find refuge in because what happened is unforgettable and unforgivable, and should never happen again.”
Michel Pfeffer, 74, is not a fan of Macron, but is determined to vote for him next Sunday for one reason: The names of his father and his grandfather are on the wall of the Holocaust Memorial, two of the 76,000 French Jews deported to die. “I have always voted conservative, and it will be difficult to betray my political convictions, but I have no other choice,” said his wife Mireille.
While anti-Semitism has always percolated under the surface in France, they feel a growing acceptance of it in recent years.
Responding to criticism from Le Pen that Macron is using memories of the Holocaust for political gain, Macron grew heated.
“Does she want us to no longer commemorate?” he asked, pledging to “proudly resolutely defend what we are, our history, the memory of those who perished.”
France’s wartime collaboration with the Nazis still casts a shadow of shame seven decades later. There was no national atonement, and families across France have troubling stories of collaboration that have been hidden from their children and grandchildren.
It wasn’t until 1995 that thenpresident Jacques Chirac acknowledged the French state’s role in the Holocaust for the first time. Despite Chirac’s gesture, many French prefer to see the Vichy regime that governed wartime France as a historical anomaly. Le Pen voiced that position recently, denying that the French state was responsible for Nazi-era roundups of Jews.
Independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron looks at some of the 2,500 photographs of young Jews deported from France.