Marine Le Pen denies France's role in rounding up Jews during WWII

Marine Le Pen denies France's role in rounding up Jews during WWII

Far-right French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen took heat on Sunday for comments she made that downplay the role the French state played in rounding up Jews during World War II, according to the Washington Post.

"I don't think France is responsible for the Vel d'Hiv," she said, referring to the 1942 corralling of thousands of French Jews in an indoor stadium before they were shipped off to concentration camps.

"I think that, generally speaking, if there are people responsible, it's those who were in power at the time. It's not France," she added.

"Those who were in power at the time" would seemingly refer to Nazi Germany, whose occupation of France surely made it difficult to defy orders to hand over Jews. But to deny any complicity by French authorities was "a serious mistake," as her political rival, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, said on Monday.

"Some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen," Macron told BFM TV, according to the Post.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the estranged father of Marine, founded France's National Front party on a foundation of racism and anti-Semitism in 1972 and once referred to the Holocaust itself as a mere "detail of history."

"We must not be complacent or minimize what the National Front is today," Macron said.

Former French President Jacques Chirac and current President François Hollande have both acknowledged and apologized for France's role in the events at the Vel d'Hiv, which ultimately housed more than 13,000 Jews at the Nazi's behest.

According to the Guardian, Le Pen later clarified in a statement that she had meant that "France and the Republic were in London during the occupation" and did not bear the full brunt of the responsibility, but did not apologize for her comments. 

"This does not at all exonerate the actual personal responsibility of those French who took part in the vile Vel d'Hiv round-up and all the atrocities committed in that period," she said. 

France is set to begin its two-round presidential election on April 23.