French President says Pétain, who rounded up thousands of Jews, to be honoured because he was a great First World War soldier
Emmanuel Macron has announced that Marshal Philippe Pétain, the Nazi collaborator whose administration helped deport of tens of thousands of French Jews to death camps, will be honoured a centenary tribute because he “was a great soldier in World War One.”
France’s leading Jewish organisation, Crif, said it was “shocked” at the decision, which the French President announced on Wednesday.
“I consider it entirely legitimate that we pay homage to the marshals who led our army to victory,” Mr Macron said.
“Marshal Pétain was a great soldier in World War One.”
But Crif leader Francis Kalifat said: “the only thing we remember about Philippe Petain is that he was, in the name of the French people, held in national disgrace during his trial in July 1945.
“I am shocked that we can honour a man who, it must be remembered, was himself responsible for the deportation of Jews from France, including the Vel’ d’Hiv raid .”
Pétain helped lead the French army to victory in the First World War Battle of Verdun, emerging a national hero.
But after the German capture of France in 1940, he was appointed to head the Vichy government, a puppet state set up by the Nazis.
During the following years, over 75,000 Jews in France were rounded up, with the full help of the Vichy police forces, and sent to concentration camps, where they were killed.
This included the Vel’ d’Hiv raid in 1941, when Vichy forces gathered over 13,000 Jews, including thousands of women and children, to send to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
After the war, Pétain was tried and convicted for treason. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to his age and First World War service. He died in 1951.