(JTA) — A French Protestant organization that saved Jews during the Holocaust declined to attend a commemoration because one of its organizers was a pro-Israel Jewish group.
The Marseille branch of CIMADE turned down an invitation to the region’s main memorial ceremony for Jewish Holocaust victims because CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, organized the event with the municipality.
The values that led CIMADE to save Jews make the group “equally committed to oppose the colonial, discriminatory and bellicose policy of Israel with regards to the Palestinians,” CIMADE regional deputies Francoise Rocheteau and Jean-Pierre Cavalie wrote in a letter to the local CRIF branch on Dec. 21. It also said CIMADE was determined to fight “apartheid.”
The letter, which was published online Monday by a group that promotes a boycott of Israel, was a reply to an invitation extended by CRIF to CIMADE to attend the 70th commemoration on Jan. 20 of the deportation and subsequent murder of thousands of local Jews.
Marseille had a Jewish population of 39,000 in 1939, according to Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People. Only 10,000 remained after the Holocaust.
CIMADE, which was established in 1939, organized “vital relief and later resistance” in connection with the murders, according to Yad Vashem, and helped smuggle Jews to safety. Yad Vashem named Madeleine Barot, who headed CIMADE during the Holocaust, a Righteous Among the Nations in 1988. She died seven years later.
“We understand our positions may appear unacceptable, making us unwelcome at your commemoration,” the CIMADE representatives wrote. “We cannot keep silent on our convictions but do not wish to cause a scandal.”