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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Raffarin condemns attacks on Jews
Jean-Pierre Raffarin lays wreath at the memorial
Jews from Paris were sent to death camps
The French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, has described a recent spate of anti-Jewish attacks in France as attacks on the whole country.

Mr Raffarin, in a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of a major round-up of Jews in France during World War II, said those responsible for the attacks would be hunted down and punished.


I was little. I cried. Sixty years later, I still hear the cries

Holocaust survivor Raymond Anisten
More than 13,000 Jewish people in the Paris region were rounded up by the Vichy French authorities on 16-17 July 1942.

They were taken to a cycling stadium called the Velodrome d'Hiver, or Vel d'Hiv, before being deported to death camps.

"There is no room for anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia," Mr Raffarin said.

"The head of state and the government have taken, and will take, all necessary measures to put a stop to these attacks, which are an insult to our country."

Mr Raffarin was speaking at the Place of the Jewish Martyrs in Paris close to where the Velodrome d'Hiver once stood.

'Guards were French'

"Yes, Vel d'Hiv, Drancy, Compiegne and all the transit camps, these antechambers of death were organised, run and guarded by Frenchmen," he said.

"Yes, the first acts of the Shoah (Holocaust) took place here, with the co-operation of the French state."

Mr Raffarin, accompanied by Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and State Secretary for Veterans Affairs Hamlaoui Mekachera, laid a wreath at the memorial.

Israeli Ambassador Elie Barnavi also attended.

Jews in transit camp at Drancy
Transit camps were run by Frenchmen, said Mr Raffarin
More than 8,000 Jews were held for a week at the cycle stadium in appalling conditions before being transported to Auschwitz. More than half of them were children.

Present at the ceremony were some who survived the round-up.

Raymond Anisten said he escaped from Vel d'Hiv with the help of some adults who distracted the guards.

"I was little. I cried. Sixty years later, I still hear the cries," he said, wiping away tears.

Another ceremony was held outside the capital at Drancy, the site of another transit camp.

Responsibility

France only acknowledged its responsibility in the deportation of Jews seven years ago.

Before that it had argued that Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis, was not synonymous with the French state.

About 75,000 were sent from France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Of those, only 2,500 survived.

The recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in France - more than 300 since late March - are believed to be a reaction to Israel's military action against the Palestinians.

They range from graffiti to the firebombing of Jewish Institutions.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark McCallum
"Nearly 360 anti-Semitic acts were counted during April"
See also:

15 Dec 99 | Europe
07 Mar 00 | Europe
19 Jul 02 | Europe
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