An unsuccessful candidate for the French presidency has been acquitted of denying a crime against humanity after saying that French collaborators with the Nazis had saved most French Jews.
Last week, an earlier ruling by a lower court finding Eric Zemmour innocent was confirmed by the Appeals Court of Paris.
A number of left-leaning anti-racism groups had filed complaints against the politician and provocateur over comments made in 2019 asserting that Phillippe Pétain, a former leader who allowed the Nazis to rule a large part of France during the Second World War, had sacrificed foreign Jews living in France to save Jewish citizens.
The issue of Petain is a divisive topic in France as it raises questions over French complicity in the Holocaust.
In 1995, then-president Jacques Chirac apologised for France’s role in the roundup of Jews to be deported to concentration camps. It has since been acknowledged by numerous presidents, and monuments honouring Pétain have been removed across the country.
However, some in far-right and far-left circles dispute that version of history, with one renowned historian, Alain Michel, pushing the theory that some of Pétain’s policies were driven by a desire to save French Jews.
Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld described Zemmour’s interpretation as “completely false."
Responding to the ruling on social media, Zemmour wrote: “French justice has made its decision today. Those who call me a ‘Pétainiste’ are morally, historically, and now legally wrong.
“One thing out of the way, just as I embark on a beautiful election campaign.”
La justice française a tranché aujourd'hui. Ceux qui me traitent de pétainiste ont moralement, historiquement et désormais juridiquement tort. Une bonne chose de faite, au moment de me lancer dans une belle campagne. https://t.co/ixYrAqdIva— Eric Zemmour (@ZemmourEric) May 12, 2022
Zemmour announced last week that he would be standing in the French parliamentary elections, taking place in June.
He lost the first round of the presidential election held last month having promised that he would get to the second round: "Then, I will be either president of the Republic or leader of the opposition.”
He won just 7.07 per cent of the vote, coming fourth behind President Emmanuel Macron, right-wing leader Marine Le Pen, and left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon. However, he won more votes than the traditional Socialist and Republican parties that have dominated French politics for decades.