French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making a joint declaration at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on Sunday. Picture: REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making a joint declaration at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on Sunday. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron marked 75 years since the round-up of 13,000 Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps, calling France’s responsibility a "stark truth" at a ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking on Sunday near the former site of the Velodrome d’Hiver, the indoor cycle track from which the Jews were deported in 1942, Macron said: "It is indeed France that organised" the round-up. "Not a single German" took part.

Netanyahu’s presence at the ceremony sparked controversy, with the Union of French Jews for Peace calling the invitation "shocking" and "unacceptable".

The organisation accused the Israeli government of "usurping the memory of the victims of Nazism to make people believe that Israel represents all the world’s Jews".

The ceremony marked the day when officials of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France began rounding up 13,152 Jews and taking them to the Velodrome d’Hiver. Fewer than 100 of those who were detained and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

Macron was the fourth French president to accept blame for France’s role in the deportations — 75,000 in all — since Jacques Chirac first did so in 1995.

"Time does its work," Macron said. "Archives open [and] the truth comes out. It’s stark, irrevocable. It imposes itself on us all," Macron said.

Netanyahu hailed the "special heroism" of the French resistance to the Nazis, praising the "noble French citizens who at great risk to their own lives" saved thousands more Jews from perishing in the death camps where at least 6-million died between 1941 and 1945.

"For the sacred honour of those who perished ... let us remember the past, let us secure tomorrow," he said.

"The strength of Israel is that it is the one certain guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a holocaust again."

Netanyahu and Macron were to hold talks later on Sunday.

Reuters

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