PARIS (JTA) — For the first time, France officially recognized it was guilty of helping murder French Jews during World War II.
On Monday the country’s high court, the Council of State, took the opportunity to hold France "responsible" for sending Jews to Nazi camps, when asked about a related case on granting reparations to a Holocaust victim.
The council said the French must "solemnly recognize the responsibility of the state and the collective prejudice suffered "because the country "permitted or facilitated the deportation from France of victims of anti-Semitic persecution," the French Daily le Figaro reported.
It took until 1995 for former French President Jacques Chirac to become the first French leader to publicly assume his country’s responsibility for sending some 76,000 French Jews to Nazi camps during World War II. Approximately 2,600 survived, according to the Paris-based Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.
Until Chirac’s statement, German occupiers under the French Vichy government were officially blamed for the Holocaust. Chirac’s belated comments also did not hold the legal weight of Monday’s ruling.
The council delegated to a lower court the final ruling on whether the daughter of a Holocaust victim deserves financial reparations. Their decision will make new requests for reparations more difficult to satisfy. Though the state should "compensate" Holocaust victims, the court underlined that the government had already paid them "as much as possible."
Indeed, Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association for Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees, and vice president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, agreed that French Holocaust survivors and children of deportees already received considerable financial reparations from the government. He sited a $632 million sum dealt to Holocaust victims and foundations this year, according to le Figaro.
"It is a decision that satisfies me," Klarsfeld said of the council’s ruling, in an interview with le Figaro. "France is now showing it is in the
avant-guard of countries taking responsibility for their past, which was not the case until the 1990s."