Wiesel calls on France to stop Roma deportations

By Jennifer Lipman, August 31, 2010
Elie Wiesel condemned the deportations

Elie Wiesel condemned the deportations

Elie Wiesel has condemned the French government’s decision to expel Roma immigrants but cautioned that a comparison with the Nazi round-ups was not appropriate.

The Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor described the repatriation of Roma people from France to Romania and Bulgaria as unacceptable.

As a former refugee, Mr Wiesel expressed his solidarity with the Roma and called on French president Nicolas Sarkozy to stop the crackdown.

But he also said: "It is necessary to be careful with the language.

“These Roma are sent to Romania, to Hungary, not to Auschwitz.

He added: "One doesn’t have the right to trivialise events, memories and souvenirs.”

Robert Le Gall, Archbishop of Toulouse, had likened the situation to the expulsion of Jews from occupied France during the Holocaust.

Around 700 Roma, also known as gypsies or Romany, are expected to be deported from France.

Mr Sarkozy has defended the plan as necessary to decrease crime levels, but it has been met by criticism in France and around the world.

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the founder of humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières, is one of a number of senior French politicians who have publicly questioned the decision.

Mr Kouchner, whose father was Jewish, said he had considered resigning. He said: “I am not happy with what has happened. I have been working with the Roma for 25 years.”

More than 220,000 Roma are believed to have been murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Last updated: 4:27pm, October 7 2010