Thousands of people demonstrated here Thursday demanding that Parliament lift the immunity of rightwing leader Jean Marie Le Pen so that he can be tried for inciting racial hatred and defending Nazi war crimes.
The demonstrators were protesting Le Pen’s public statement last Sunday doubting the existence of Nazi gas chambers and the reality of the Holocaust. Le Pen also downgraded the massacre of millions of Jews during the second World War as “a minor historical detail.”
Among the approximately 5,000 people who marched Thursday evening in front of the National Assembly were two former Socialist Premiers, Pierre Mauroy and Laurent Fabius, and dozens of prominent writers and philosophers, mainly Jews. Some of the organizers privately expressed disappointment over the turnout, which they expected to be larger.
Political observers said that the center-right parties, led by Premier Jacques Chirac and Raymond Barre, are in a quandary with Presidential elections due next spring. An energetic condemnation of Le Pen might cost them the votes of some of his supporters. Le Pen’s National Front won 34 seats in last year’s Parliamentary elections. According to public opinion polls it still enjoys the support of some 10 percent of the electorate.
Chirac and Barre have not yet reacted to Le Pen’s statements about the Holocaust.
Six organizations representing former deportees and resistance fighters announced Thursday they will sue Le Pen for civil damages. Parliamentary immunity does not protect him from civil suits.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.