(JTA) – French President Emmanuel Macron condemned anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism at a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv deportations. “We will never surrender to the expressions of hatred,” Macron said Sunday, July 16 in Paris. “We will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of antisemitism.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also was among the more than 1,000 people on hand for the ceremony – the first time an Israeli prime minister had attended. The rite was held near a monument that was erected where the stadium stood before it was demolished decades ago.
On July 16-17, 1942, French police officers rounded up more than 13,000 Jews at the Winter Stadium, or Velodrome d’Hiver. The men, women and children were imprisoned there for days in unsanitary conditions and without sufficient water, leading to dozens of fatalities, including by suicide. The Jews were then transported, partly on French national railway cars, to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe.
Many politicians in France have acknowledged their country’s responsibility for the murder of nearly a quarter of its Jewish population, including Jaques Chirac, who as president in 1995 said that France “carried out the criminal insanity of the occupier” at Vel d’Hiv. Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has consistently called anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism, but a French president in office had never made such a statement publicly prior to Macron. “Not a single German was involved,” Macron said, rejecting “those who wish to say that Vichy’s France wasn’t representative of the French nation because “the Nazis knew they could count on the obedience” of that government and thousands of Frenchmen serving it. The Vel d’Hiv roundup was carried out under orders from the Nazis by the authorities of the Vichy collaborationist government, which controlled part of France following the country’s occupation by Nazi Germany.
In April, far-right politician Marine Le Pen said that “France, as a nation, is not responsible for” what happened at Vel d’Hiv, prompting Macron, who was then running for president against the leader of the National Front party, to visit a Holocaust monument in protest of her statement.