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Macron to lead tribute to victims of Nazi raid on Jewish orphanage

The French president will participate in a series of World War II commemorations this year, culminating in ceremonies marking the D-Day landings 80 years ago.

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on Jan. 22, 2020. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on Jan. 22, 2020. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

French President Emmanuel Macron will head a ceremony on Sunday in honor of the victims of a raid by Nazi forces on a Jewish orphanage in the southeast of France, as a result of which nearly all its occupants were sent to extermination camps.

It’s one of a series of events Macron will lead this year as France marks eight decades since the penultimate year of World War II.

Eighty years ago, on April 6, 1944, 44 Jewish children between the ages of four and 12 living in the orphanage in the village of Izieu were rounded up by the Gestapo with their seven instructors, also Jewish.

All the Izieu victims were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland or Reval in Estonia. Only one instructor survived.

The raid was carried out on the orders of Klaus Barbie, the notorious Nazi known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” Barbie fled to South America after the war. He was extradited from Bolivia to France in 1983 and in 1987 received a life sentence. He died in prison in 1991.

Some eight former residents will attend the ceremony, AFP reported.

Between May 1943 and April 1944, the orphanage, founded by Sabine Zlatin, a Jewish resistance fighter from Poland, took in around 100 children , whose parents had been deported. Until the raid, it had been left relatively unmolested.

“We went to school, we had a quiet life,” said Bernard Waysenson, who arrived in the summer of 1943 with his sister and brother. They left at the end of November 1943 to join their family.

“The memory I have of the war is above all our survival,” Waysenson told AFP.

Commemorations will reach a climax with tributes to the Normandy landings of D-Day in June, to which world leaders will attend. The 1944 liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation will be celebrated in August.

Of the orphanage commemoration, the French presidency said that it will mark “the commitment of those who stood up against Nazism by welcoming the victims of persecution, and of those who opposed the abomination of republican values, by bringing the executioner Klaus Barbie to justice,”

Even as Macron honors those who stood up against Nazism, his rhetoric toward the only Jewish state has escalated in recent months, creating tension between himself and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last month, Macron said that the forcible transfer of Gazans from Rafah ahead of a prospective Israeli military operation in the city, Hamas’s final stronghold, would constitute a “war crime,” according to AFP.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron reportedly reiterated his opposition to any Israeli military operation to destroy Hamas’s last remaining battalions, who according to Israel are holed up in the city, and said Paris was planning to circulate a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council calling for “an immediate and lasting ceasefire.”

In November, Macron claimed during a BBC interview that Israel was killing women and children in Gaza.

“De facto—today civilians are being bombed. These babies, these women, these old people are being bombed and killed. So there is no reason for it and no legitimacy. So we do plead with Israel to stop,” the French leader said.

The remarks drew condemnation from Netanyahu, who said that Macron “made a serious mistake, factually and morally” and that “the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas-ISIS and not with Israel.”

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