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Zemmour acquitted of Holocaust denial for saying French Nazi collaborator saved Jews

Appeals court confirms earlier ruling that ex-presidential candidate didn’t deny crimes against humanity by saying Philippe Pétain sacrificed foreign Jews to save Jewish citizens

Eric Zemmour gestures as he takes part in the political show 'Elysee 2022' on French TV channel France 2, in Saint-Denis, near Paris, on March 17, 2022. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
Eric Zemmour gestures as he takes part in the political show 'Elysee 2022' on French TV channel France 2, in Saint-Denis, near Paris, on March 17, 2022. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

JTA — A French court acquitted Éric Zemmour of denying a crime against humanity by saying that a French collaborator with the Nazis had saved most French Jews.

The Appeals Court of Paris last week confirmed an earlier ruling from January by a lower court that said that Zemmour, a Jewish journalist with far-right views who ran unsuccessfully for president in April, was innocent of the action, which is illegal in France.

Several left-leaning anti-racism groups had filed complaints against Zemmour over his 2019 comments saying that Philippe Pétain, whom the Nazis allowed to administer a part of France after they occupied the country in 1940, had sacrificed foreign Jews living in France to save Jewish citizens.

The issue is divisive because it touches on the question of French complicity in the Holocaust.

Multiple French presidents since Jacques Chirac have acknowledged collaboration by the French government, and public monuments honoring Petain have been removed across France. A plaque honoring him remains in place in New York City, something that local Jewish advocates want to change.

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, right, shaking hands with Head of State of Vichy France Marshall Philippe Petain, in occupied France, October 24, 1940. (AP Photo)

But others dispute that history, especially in far-right circles and in some far-left ones. At least one renowned historian, Alain Michel, also advocates the theory that some of Pétain’s policies were guided by a desire to save French Jews.

The view held by Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld is more widely held. Klarsfeld has called Zemmour’s interpretation “completely false.”

Zemmour last week announced he would be running for a seat in the French parliament in the June 12 election. He came in fourth in the first round of the presidential elections in April and did not continue to the second and final round in which President Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Party rally.

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