Hollande admits France's role in persecuting Romani people during WWII
Yesterday French President François Hollande became that country's first head of state to admit France's contribution to the persecution of Romani people during the Second World War. During a visit to a former internment camp, Hollande said countries become better places when they acknowledge their faults.
"The time has come to tell the truth... The republic acknowledges the suffering of the gens du voyage who were interned here and acknowledges that her contribution to that suffering was significant," Hollande said during his visit to the former internment camp of Montreuil-Bellay in western France.
"A country is always better when it acknowledges its history and makes room for all of its citizens," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. The wartime regime of the French State, headquartered in Vichy, collaborated during the 1940s with Nazi Germany and aided in the deportation of tens of thousands of Jewish people to the concentration camps while sending thousands of Romani people to internment camps.
There were more than 30 such camps for so-called "nomads" around all of France and between 1940 and 1946 as many as 6 500 people perished in them. The last prisoners were not released from the French camps until almost two years after the Nazi occupation had ended.
France did not admit its contribution to the Holocaust with respect to Jewish victims until 1995, when French President Jacques Chirac made that decision. In France, people known as "gens du voyage" have lived for centuries and have even held a particular bureaucratic status there.
Such persons consider themselves distinct from the Romani people who have recently begun arriving in France from Bulgaria and Romania and who have created encampments on the outskirts of French cities. The Associated Press reports that both groups face discrimination there.
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