Famous Nazi Hunter in France Advises Jews to Vote Far Right Over Far Left in Elections

PARIS (AP) — Days ahead of France’s crucial parliamentary elections, noted Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld is sticking to his advice that voters facing a duel between Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National and a far-left rival should vote for the far right.

The advice from Klarsfeld, an 88-year-old Jewish historian who has devoted his life to bringing Nazi fugitives to justice, runs counter to that of many other Jewish leaders and intellectuals in France who see the fight against the Rassemblement National as a top priority in Sunday’s second round of elections.

But Klarsfeld told The Associated Press in an interview in his Paris apartment that the far-left France Unbowed party has militantly pro-Palestinian supporters and “anti-Semitic undertones,” while Le Pen’s party supports Israel and the Jewish people.

“Marine Le Pen is the head of a party that supports Israel and the Jews,” Klarsfeld said in Tuesday’s interview. “So we gave this advice to those who are going to face this second round between the far left and what used to be the far right, which for us is now a populist party, to vote right,” he said.

Klarsfeld shocked many people in France, including the Jewish community, when he first made this claim on French television earlier this month.

Klarsfeld said he himself would vote for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance, but not all voters in France’s 577 districts will have that option in Sunday’s second round of elections. Many will then only be able to choose between a candidate from Rassemblement National or a candidate from France Unbowed.

The three largest blocs are the anti-immigration bloc, the nationalist Rassemblement National, Macron’s alliance and a broad left-wing coalition that also includes the Socialists, the Greens and France Unbowed.

National Rally performed best in the first round, bringing the party and its allies closer than ever to government. But Sunday’s outcome remains uncertain as other political parties attempt to block National Rally’s path. An unprecedented number of candidates who qualified for the second round have stepped aside to favor the competitor they believe is most likely to win against a National Rally opponent.

“I fear the far left. The far left has a deep-seated hatred of Israel and has … militants who are pro-Palestinian,” said Klarsfeld, who described France Unbowed as “a violently anti-Israel party with certain anti-Semitic undertones.”

France’s half-million or so Jewish people are a tiny fraction of the country’s 66 million people, but they have been thrust into the election fray by bitter divisions in the country over the war between Hamas and Israel. Opposing camps in the parliamentary election have hurled accusations of anti-Semitism at each other.

Leaders of France Unbowed have strongly condemned Israel’s war against Hamas, accusing it of seeking genocide against Palestinians. But they have strongly denied accusations of anti-Semitism.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, co-founder of the National Front, the Rassemblement National’s forerunner, has been convicted of racism and anti-Semitism on multiple occasions, including for repeatedly saying that the Nazi gas chambers were “a detail” of World War II history. Pierre Bousquet, another founder, was a member of the French division of Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was expelled from the party in 2015 as part of a reform by his daughter and successor, Marine Le Pen, to make the party more attractive to mainstream voters.

Klarsfeld said he believes Marine Le Pen transformed the party after expelling her father, embracing a French law banning Holocaust denial and making pro-Jewish statements.

“We sincerely believe that she is sincere,” he said. “People change. We met Marine Le Pen and we got her to make statements and make statements that were completely pro-Jewish, to accept the Gayssot law, a law that protects Jews.”

Klarsfeld managed to escape from the Gestapo in Nice as a child in 1943. His father was captured and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He never returned.

Together with his wife Beate, “we have always fought for the defense of the Jewish memory, for the persecution of Nazi criminals, against anti-Semitic far-right ideology and for persecuted Jews all over the world,” Klarsfeld said.

The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, better known as CRIF, has called on French voters “to mobilize to prevent the Rassemblement National from coming to power by voting en masse for candidates from democratic and republican parties, and to categorically refuse any compromise with France Unbowed.”

French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy expressed his “respect” for Klarsfeld and his sadness at seeing his position. “Defeatism? Badly advised? Either way, a political mistake. And, for those inclined to listen, a trap,” Levy wrote on X.

Klarsfeld said: “If the National Rally does not go in the direction I foresee, I will fight the National Rally and admit that I was wrong.”

“But for now. I may be right, I may be wrong, but no one can prove me wrong,” he concluded.

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