France’s extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen will stand trial for comments he made last year when he said that the Nazi occupation of France had not been "particularly inhumane."
The comments were made during an interview with the far-right weekly magazine Rivarol. Le Pen had said: "In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders, inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km."
A judicial source said Le Pen would be tried for "complicity in contesting crimes against humanity and complicity in justifying war crimes."
The source did not say when the date had been set for the trial.
This is not the first time that Le Pen has made insensitive comments about the Holocaust. In 1987, the Front National (National Front) party leader stated on RTL radio that the Holocaust was "a detail of history.”
In 1990, he was convicted of incitement to racial hatred by casting doubt on the Nazi persecution of Jews and Gypsies under a French law banning such rhetoric.
He was fined 183,000 euros for "trivializing" the Nazi persecutions. He appealed the sentence to the European Court of Human Rights. He made similar statements in Munich in 1997, violating Germany’s hate speech laws.
Le Pen responded to critics using a refrain common to Holocaust deniers and revisionists, saying he would no longer answer questions on the topic because, "it’s a taboo subject which is protected by legal and criminal law and the only opinion you can express on it is that allowed by the media. There is a propensity in our political life to exaggerate the importance of the past, particularly of WWII."
Le Pen has also been no stranger to outright anti-Semitism. In February 1997, Le Pen accused President Jacques Chirac of being "in the pay of Jewish organizations.”
In April 2000, Le Pen was banned from public office and stripped of his seat in the European Parliament for one year, following a 1998 conviction for assaulting a Socialist politician the year before during elections.
However, more recently Le Pen has turned his attention to Muslims, more specifically North African immigrants to France.
His party has taken an anti-immigration stance, while also calling for the death penalty and mandatory conscription to the army.
In 2002, Le Pen qualified for the second round of presidential elections and a run off against eventual winner, Jacques Chirac.
Reprinted with permission of the European Jewish Press