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French author Celine pulled from recognition over anti-Semitic past

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PARIS (JTA) — The late French author Louis-Ferdinand Celine was cut from a list of personalities to be remembered at an annual ceremony because of his anti-Semitic past.

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand removed Celine from the list of major historical figures to be recognized Jan. 21 following the condemnation of his inclusion.

Celine’s talent as a novelist is still recognized here, but his close cooperation with Nazi Germany, including virulent anti-Semitic pamphlets he wrote before and during the war, continue to spark controversy.

Last week, Holocaust survivor and Nazi prosecutor Serge Klarsfeld asked French President Nicolas Sarkozy to remove Celine from the national celebration after publicly condemning the decision to honor the author alongside individuals such as the scientist Marie Curie and former President Georges Pompidou.

Catherine Clement, a writer and philosopher who was on the committee to choose the individuals to be honored, quit the group in protest of Celine’s inclusion as an honoree.

Mitterrand said Saturday that after re-reading one of Celine’s infamous anti-Semitic 1937 pamphlets, it "was enough” to convince him to remove the author.

Since last Friday, a backlash has grown against so-called “communitarian lobbying” by activists such as Klarsfeld to “censor” the author.

“It is not normal, even scandalous that a communitarian lobby, however honorable it is, dictate the behavior of the French state through the ministry of culture,” said television commentator and writer Eric Naulleau on a popular France 2 television show on Saturday, to the cheers of the studio audience.

“For years we have distinguished men from their works of art,” added guest author on the same show, Philippe Besson.

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