By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — A survivor of the horrible journey to Auschwitz remembered how the youngest wailed. There have been 99 kids squeezed amongst 751 adults gasping for air, crazed by thirst and starvation, aboard convoy No. 63 that departed Paris at 10 minutes previous noon on Dec. 17, 1943.
The 828 murdered on the dying camp from that trainload alone included 3-year-old Francine Baur, her sister Myriam, 9, their brothers Antoine and Pierre, 6 and 10, and their mother and father Odette and André.
All born in France, their French citizenship proved nugatory underneath France’s wartime Vichy regime that teamed up with the nation’s Nazi occupiers and their extermination of Jews.
So when André Baur’s great-nephew, a Paris mayor, was catching up on his Twitter feed not too long ago and noticed a declare reported in French media that Adolf Hitler’s Vichy collaborators safeguarded France’s Jews from the Holocaust, he was revolted. Worst nonetheless within the eyes of Ariel Weil, mayor of the French capital’s metropolis heart, was that the debunked assertion got here from a pretender for the French presidency who’s himself Jewish.
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That individual is Eric Zemmour, a rabble-rousing tv pundit and creator with repeated convictions for hate speech who’s discovering fervent audiences for his anti-Islam, anti-immigration invective within the early phases of France’s presidential race. He is packing auditoriums with paying crowds and filling supporters’ heads with visions of a Trump-like leap from small display screen to the presidential Elysee Palace when France votes in April.
Although not but formally declared as a candidate, Zemmour has up to now dictated the course and tenor of the marketing campaign. With climbing ballot numbers, now persistently in double digits, and a Trump-like knack for producing buzz — current video of him pointing a sniper rifle at journalists is racking up thousands and thousands of views — Zemmour is sucking airtime from declared contenders.
He has additionally destabilized them by hammering on about immigration and the mortal hazard he says it poses to France, making it more durable for mainstream rivals to steer marketing campaign dialog again to themes — combating local weather change, post-pandemic rebuilding and suchlike — they wish to give attention to.
Zemmour is performing as a presidential contender in all however title. Supporters are soliciting funds and the backing from elected officers that candidates have to run. Shown the rifle at a safety present by an exhibitor who mentioned, “When you’re president, Mr. Zemmour,” he interjected, “Yes.”
That is a horrifying state of affairs for French Jews who’re appalled by Zemmour’s sugarcoating of the Vichy regime that was led by World War I hero Marshal Philippe Petain. He was tried and sentenced to dying at World War II’s finish, subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.
That Zemmour is himself a descendant of Berber Jews from Algeria, a household historical past he talks about proudly, deepened the damage for Jews who misplaced kin to the Holocaust.
“Just as a result of he’s Jewish, he’s doing one thing that no one else can do, and that’s simply disgusting,” Weil instructed The Associated Press in an interview. “History is difficult however that is quite simple: Petain didn’t defend the French Jews.”
The frightened males, ladies and youngsters herded aboard convoy No. 63 swelled what, by World War II’s finish, grew to become a shameful depend of 74,182 Jews deported from France. Most have been despatched to their deaths in Auschwitz, in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland, the place greater than 1.1 million individuals perished.
A Paris courtroom in February acquitted Zemmour on a cost of contesting crimes towards humanity — unlawful in France — for arguing in a 2019 tv debate that Petain saved France’s Jews from the Holocaust.
In its verdict, the courtroom mentioned the deportation of overseas and French Jews “was applied with the lively participation of the Vichy authorities, its officers, and its police.” Zemmour’s feedback negated Petain’s function within the extermination, the courtroom added.
But in acquitting Zemmour, it mentioned he’d spoken within the warmth of the second. It additionally famous that throughout the trial, Zemmour made a distinction between saying that “some French Jews” have been saved (utilizing the phrase “des” in French), which he maintained was true, and saying “the French Jews” have been saved (utilizing the French phrase “les”), a generality which he mentioned he disavowed.
Yet final month, Zemmour employed “les” when expounding once more on Vichy in one other broadcast interview, saying: “I say that Vichy protected the French Jews and that it handed over the overseas Jews.”
“It’s abominable, as a result of these poor individuals died,” he added.
Lawyers who contest his courtroom acquittal plan to quote that interview as proof when their attraction is heard in January.
Politically, most threatened by Zemmour is French far-right chief Marine Le Pen. Since dropping the 2017 presidential runoff to winner Emmanuel Macron, she has watered down a few of her coverage proposals in hopes of broadening her attraction. But Zemmour is chipping away at her base, seemingly poaching Le Pen voters who suspect she’s gone tender. Some polls counsel they’re neck and neck. But each persistently path Macron, who is predicted to face once more.
While each painting immigration as a menace to French identification, Zemmour makes use of language that Le Pen balks at and which his critics say positions him on the extremes of the far proper. In a rustic that formally regards itself as colorblind and the place public dialogue of race is usually frowned upon, Zemmour is uncommon amongst political figures in brazenly distinguishing between pores and skin colours. At a current rally in Versailles, he described woke tradition as a plot to make “white, heterosexual, Catholic” males really feel “so stuffed with guilt” that they willingly abandon their “tradition and civilization.”
On Vichy, Zemmour has sought of late to attract a line underneath that subject. “I’m not discussing historic factors which might be mentioned by historians,” he mentioned in Versailles.
But for French Jews, the injury is already carried out. Some worry he has muddied many years of labor by Holocaust researchers to indelibly doc the horrors.
“He is denying one thing that was evident, that can’t be denied,” mentioned Eugenie Cayet, 84, whose father was deported from Paris to Auschwitz and killed.
“What’s his purpose? To rally all of Le Pen’s votes behind him.”
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