Israeli President Rivlin Takes Le Pen to Task: We Face New Form of Holocaust Denial in Europe

Speaking at closing ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israeli president calls for 'moral reflection' from countries that assisted Germany in carrying out Final Solution

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, April 24, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/AP

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin criticized Marine Le Pen, the right-wing National Front’s candidate for the French presidency, for suggesting that France’s wartime government played no role in advancing the Holocaust. He made the comments during the closing ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot on Monday evening.

“The prevalent message arising from recent political statements is uniquely disturbing. And in every place that message is the same: We are not responsible for the Holocaust. We are not responsible for the extermination of the Jewish people which occurred within our borders,” Rivlin said.

“For example, a French presidential candidate denied France’s responsibility for the deportation of its Jewish citizens to the Nazi concentration and death camps,” he continued. “A member of her party denied not only French involvement in the deportation of the Jews to destruction, but their very murder.”

Speaking at the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum to an audience that included former German President Joachim Gauck, Rivlin went on to describe how this phenomenon has been repeating itself in other places.

“In Poland, the debate surrounding the involvement of the local population in the persecution and murder of Jews has become a political issue of the first order,” he said. “In the Ukraine, elected officials were enraged by my speech before the Ukrainian Parliament, when I recalled that many of those who collaborated with the Nazis were Ukrainian, and among them those who betrayed and slaughtered Jews and in many cases turned them over the Germans. And in Britain, a member of the Labour Party who was thrown out of it said Jewish Zionists cooperated with Hitler.”

“It is true, the responsibility is not equal,” he said, adding: “We do not demand from any nation apart from the German nation the responsibility for the systematic planning and the implementation of the Final Solution. But we do call for moral internal reflection from all those who assisted carrying out of the systematic annihilation.”

"Denial of responsibility of the crimes committed in the days of the World War II is Holocaust denial of a new, more destructive and dangerous kind from that we have known until now," said Rivlin. “Traditional Holocaust deniers belonged to the fringe on the left and right. They relied on pseudo-scientific studies does by pseudo-historians. That older generation of Holocaust deniers sought to attack the facts and solid findings on the scope of the Nazi mass destruction and its racist and anti-Semitic objectives. Their success was minimal."

“On the other hand, the Holocaust denial that’s springing up before our eyes strives for a more sophisticated and dangerous goal,” he said. “This is not a denial of the very existence of the Holocaust, but a denial of the distinction between a victim and a criminal. It’s denial that seeks to turn all of Europe, its national leaders and its organizing institutions, into victims. This is denial that seeks to nullify the political and moral responsibility that must be at the heart of Holocaust remembrance for all generations. Victimization is the most comprehensive and effective exemption certificate from responsibility.”