Days before the French are set to elect their next president, and just before the two major candidates went on air for their first debate, a group of French World War II resistance fighters and Holocaust survivors released a statement rebuking the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The group made their comments on April 30, 2017 during a commemoration celebrating the French national day of resistance and deportation.
According to France 24, the somber event took place at France's former camp for deportees, Le Camp des Milles, in the country's south. Auschwitz survivor Denise Toros Marter and French resistance fighters Sidney Chouraqui and Louis Monguilan read an address that denounced Le Pen as a danger to the French Republic.
"It doesn't matter if we're accused of demonization for we have [already] known 'ordinary devils' capable of orchestrating hell," the group said in their public address. "For our country, the values of the Republic, our children and grandchildren, this deadly risk can't be taken."
"Today, nationalist extremism risks conquering the power in our country and this represents the most imminent danger to our liberty and the unity of our people."
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Common Dreams reports that at a separate event in the country's west on Sunday, 93-year-old French resistance fighter Christiane Cabale addressed members of the National Front party who had attended his city's commemoration ceremony.
"I won't make a speech, but just want to say that the presence of the National Front here is a disgrace and an insult to the friends we lost. I ask that you leave," he told the National Front members in attendance.
Le Pen has been accused of attempting to cover up or deny France's involvement in the Holocaust, as well as anti-Semitic behavior related to her party. Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, has been repeatedly convicted for anti-Semitic and racist statements. Though the younger Le Pen has attempted to distance herself from her father recently, her party remains plagued by allegations of widespread discrimination.
The BBC reports that the French presidential election between the 48-year-old Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old pro-EU candidate, will take place on May 7.
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Many view the election to be a populist referendum on liberal policies in much the same way that the British vote to leave the EU was and the U.S. presidential election appeared to be. However, this election could potentially carry even more weight, as it could lead to the ultimate dissolution of the European Union. Politicians and pundits say the EU can exist without France or without England, but it can't lose both.