What if Marine Le Pen Wins French Elections?

Far-right French presidential contender Marine Le Pen made "a serious mistake" by denying that France was responsible for the round-up of Jews during the Second World War, her main rival said.

Israel's foreign ministry spokesperson condemned Marine Le Pen's comment and regretted that anti-Semitism "is raising its head again today", Reuters reports.

Most of the Jews were crammed in appalling conditions into the Velodrome d'Hiver or Winter Velodrome cycling stadium, colloquially known as the Vel d'Hiv, before being deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Though Jacques Chirac owned up to the state's responsibility for the Vel d'Hiv roundup in 1995, Le Pen is relitigating the issue, tapping into buried resentments by attempting to deflect responsibility for France's wartime crimes to individual collaborators and Vichy officials.

The campaign is being closely followed by investors, as one contestant - the far right Marine Le Pen - has threatened to pull France out of the European Union if she wins, fuelling concerns of an unravelling of the bloc after Britain's vote to leave it previous year.

Le Pen's comments come in advance of the first round of France's presidential election on April 23, in which she still holds a narrow lead over her rivals, according to opinion polls.

Eleven candidates are officially competing to book a ticket to occupy the Elysee Palace in this year's presidential elections.

Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are still seen making it to the May 7 run-off, with Macron winning.

France's ambassador to Japan Thierry Dana has said publicly that he would refuse to serve as a diplomat if Marine Le Pen was elected president, because he refuses to serve a National Front-run state.

The French Jewish community is the biggest in Europe and is thought to number around 500,000 people, but many have been fleeing France in record numbers fearing rising anti-Semitism and following a series of attacks targeting the community.

Jitters about the French election hit financial markets on Monday after polls tightened, with support growing for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon - who, like Le Pen, wants a referendum on the country's membership of the European Union.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem defines the Vel d'Hiv rondup as "a symbol of the responsibility of the regime and the French nation for the Holocaust". Northern France, including Paris, was occupied at the time by Nazi Germany, while in the south, the Vichy government collaborated with the Germans, including in rounding up Jews that were sent to the Nazi death camps. "It unmasks the true face of National Front", Kalifat wrote on Twitter in reference to Le Pen's party.

Small independent presidential candidate Jean Lassalle, a lawmaker with centrist views, denounced Le Pen's "disgraceful" remarks.

Le Pen's estranged father founded the far-right National Front in 1972 and has been repeatedly convicted for racist and anti-Semitic comments, such as calling the Holocaust a "detail of history".

  • Carolyn Briggs