PARIS // French President Francois Hollande yesterday acknowledged his country's culpability in rounding up thousands of Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps during World War II.
"This was a crime committed in France and by France," Mr Hollande said at a ceremony to mark the July 1942 detentions of over 13,000 foreign Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris for deportation to Auschwitz and other camps.
Mr Hollande reaffirmed France's responsibility saying "truth is hard and cruel," but it was something we "owe to the Jewish martyrs".
French police and civil servants were complicit in the raids.
More than 8,000 of the victims, about half of them children, were held in Paris's Winter Velodrome for four days before being deported by rail to the death camps.
The incident is known as the "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" after the cycling track's nickname. The old velodrome near the Eiffel Tower was torn down in 1959.
Mr Hollande pledged to fight anti-Semitism, and hailed former president Jacques Chirac's "lucidity and courage" for apologising in 1995 for the mass arrests during the war.
"The security of Jews in France is not a Jews but one that concerns all French people."
French leaders from Charles De Gaulle onwards had previously taken the line that the country could not be held responsible as it was then under occupation.
The collaborationist Vichy government was nominally in charge in France at the time.
A total of 75,500 Jews were deported from France to Nazi death camps during the war.