The leader of France’s extreme-right National Front has said Nazi collaborators are welcome in his anti-immigrant party.
“The National Front welcomes all French people who have not dishonored themselves, whether they fought in the Resistance or worked for Vichy,” Jean- Marie Le Pen told a news conference, referring to the regime that governed Nazi-occupied France.
Dishonored refers to “those who are corrupt,” he said.
Le Pen was responding to accusations by Francois Leotard, leader of the centrist UDF party, that the National Front had maintained long-standing ties to Nazi collaborators.
The UDF is the junior partner in France’s center-right ruling coalition.
Taunting the centrists, Le Pen said his party would accept as a member Maurice Papon, former centrist and budget minister, who is accused of ordering the deportation of 1,690 Jews, 223 of them children, from the southwest Bordeaux region while he was a Vichy official during World War II.
“Will we be indulgent enough to admit Papon?” Le Pen said. “We have so many genuine patriots in our party that we could probably make a gesture toward this senior civil servant, whose guilt, by the way, has not yet been proven.”
A Bordeaux court is due to decide shortly whether there is sufficient evidence to send the 84-year-old Papon to trail.