nazi hunter

Nazi-hunter accuses France of ‘complicity’ in genocide

PARIS — France’s best-known Nazi hunter, Serge Klarsfeld, accused his country’s government during World War II of “complicity in a crime against humanity and genocide.”

Klarsfeld, a Holocaust survivor and historian, who, in 2014, received France’s highest civil honor together with his wife, Beate, made the assertion in an interview with the French news agency Agence-Presse France, published Saturday, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv deportations.

On July 16 and 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 through suicide. Then the Jews were transported, partly on French national railway wagons, to Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe.

More than 1,000 people, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attended the commemoration of the 75th anniversary Sunday near a monument that was erected where the stadium, which was demolished decades ago, used to stand.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) listens to Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld (2nd R) during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kamil Zihnioglu)

Earlier, Klarsfeld accompanied Macron to a new memorial space, opened near the main Vel d’Hiv monument for Jewish children who were murdered by the Nazis, with help from French authorities.

“It’s not an appeal to sentiment,” Klarsfeld, who is a prominent member of the executive board of the Memorial for the Shoah group in France, told the president, “but to historical accuracy.” Macron told him: “Thank you for the work that you do.”

French presidents rarely attend the annual commemoration for the Vel d’Hiv deportations.

Earlier this month, the Communist Party of France condemned Netanyahu’s attendance at the Vel d’Hiv commemoration. An Israeli prime minister had not yet attended the annual ceremony, which is an official day of commemoration in France. The ceremony “is about peace, whereas the Israeli prime minister is a man of war,” the party said in a statement.

But Klarsfeld defended Netanyahu’s presence there as “totally appropriate.” He disputed that the ceremony was about peace, arguing it was about remembrance. “If there was a State of Israel, a Jewish state, in 1942, Vel d’Hiv would not have happened,” Klarsfeld said.

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Nazi hunter pans Israel for ‘abdicating its duty’ on Croatia Holocaust silence

A leader of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has accused Israel of “abdicating its duty” to Holocaust survivors following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to mention Croatia’s poor record towards the genocide in a statement after he met with the country’s prime minister this week.

The allegation Tuesday by Efraim Zuroff, a well-known Holocaust researcher, hunter of Nazis and head of the center’s Eastern Europe operations, came during the state visit to Israel by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and amid a conflict between his government and Croatia’s Jewish community.

Citing the Croatian government’s “failure” to address publicly the role of the pro-Nazi members of the Ustasha fascist movement in the murder of Croatian Jews during the Holocaust, the leadership of the country’s main Jewish group said it would skip a state memorial ceremony in Parliament planned for January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The problem is that the government relativizes everything that has to do with the Holocaust,” Ognjen Kraus, president of the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities of Croatia, told Reuters on Monday. His organization boycotted last year’s state event for similar reasons.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic was photographed in November holding a flag of Croatia’s fascist puppet regime during World War II. That month, World War II veterans engraved a Ustasha slogan on a commemorative plaque installed in the town of Jasenovac. Authorities ignored the Jewish community’s pleas to have the plaque removed.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic poses during a recent trip to Canada with a flag carrying a symbol of her country's wartime pro-Nazi regime. (Facebook)

Last week, a Croatian principal shut down an exhibition about the Holocaust that the Anne Frank House of Amsterdam helped put up in his high school. He told the local media that he objected to its presentation of Ustasha militiamen as killers. Zuroff on Monday wrote to the Croatian Embassy in Israel demanding the principal be fired.

Ustasha men are responsible for killing the majority of the 30,000 Croatian Jews murdered in the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem. Only a fifth of the country’s pre-Holocaust Jewish community survived the genocide.

However, Netanyahu’s statement to the media about his meeting with Plenkovic made no direct or indirect reference to these controversies. Instead, he thanked Croatia for helping Israel fight forest fires last fall; praised Croatia – which is a member of the European Union — for supporting Israel in international forums, and called on it to continue to help Israel fight “militant Islamic terrorism.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center's Efraim Zuroff. (Photo credit: JTA via Creative Commons)

Zuroff said that while he appreciates Israel’s need to preserve and nurture its friendly ties to Eastern European nations, the Jewish state nonetheless “currently has enough leverage to find ways to express its concern over Holocaust revisionism and abuse of Holocaust memory without necessarily harming bilateral ties.”

He added that Israel “seems more eager to present itself to receive various compensations for Holocaust-related abuses than it is willing to stand up for the memory of the victims and assume the obligations connected with being the Jewish state.”