Anger as French protesters compare vaccines to Nazi horrors
PARIS (AP) – A French Holocaust survivor has spoken out against anti-vaccination protesters comparing himself to Jews who were persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. French officials and anti-racist groups joined the 94-year-old in expressing their outrage.
As more than 100,000 people marched in France against government vaccine rules On Saturday, some protesters wore yellow stars reminiscent of those the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Other protesters carried signs referring to the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, claiming the French government was unfairly mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.
â€œYou can’t imagine how much this upset me. This comparison is odious. We must all stand up against this ignominy, â€Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc said on Sunday at a ceremony commemorating the victims of anti-Semitic and racist acts by the French state, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler’s regime. .
“I wore the star, I know what it is, I still have it in my flesh,” said Szwarc, deported from France by the Nazis, with tears in his eyes. â€œIt is everyone’s duty not to let this scandalous, anti-Semitic and racist wave pass.
Historian and former Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld also aimed at the analogy, pointing out on Monday that “the yellow star was a symbol of death that excluded Jews from society and marked them for extermination, while vaccines, on the other hand, save lives “. Equalizing the two, he told The Associated Press, is an “odious” comparison that serves to trivialize the yellow star.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal lamented the “absolutely abject comparisons” of vaccine rules with Nazi atrocities, and urged other political leaders to speak out.
Attal later stressed the need for vaccinations despite pockets of increasingly radical resistance.
“We are in a fourth wave,” he said after a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, a day before a bill was submitted to parliament to make vaccination passes compulsory to access spaces public, including restaurants. It comes into effect Wednesday for cultural and recreational venues, and in early August for restaurants, bars and other venues – once the law is accelerated in place.
“We will not give in to a dictatorship of outrageous images and words,” the government spokesman said of anti-vaccination protesters.
The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism said anti-vaccination protesters “made fun of the victims of the Holocaust” and downplayed crimes against humanity committed during World War II.
Some commentators have said that political forces preparing for next year’s French presidential election have manipulated the protesters.
Saturday’s protests drew a mix of people angry with the government for a variety of reasons, including supporters of the far right. Prominent far-right French figures have been convicted in the past for anti-Semitism, racism and Holocaust denial.
Government introduces bill on Monday requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and requiring COVID-19 passes to enter restaurants and other places.
During a large demonstration in Paris on Saturday against the rules on vaccines, a protester stuck a star on his back indicating “not vaccinated”. Another, Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old municipal councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris, drew a yellow star on his T-shirt and distributed armbands with the star.
“I will never get vaccinated,” Auquier said. â€œPeople have to wake up,â€ he said, questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Auquier expressed his fear that the new measures would restrict the freedom of his two children and pledged to withdraw them from school if vaccination became compulsory.
Polls suggest most French people support the measures, but they have sparked anger in some quarters. Vandals targeted two vaccination centers in southwestern France over the weekend. One was set on fire and another covered in graffiti, including a reference to the Nazi occupation of France.
France has reported more than 111,000 deaths from the pandemic, and new confirmed cases are rising sharply again, raising fears of further pressure on hospitals and further restrictions that would hurt jobs and businesses.
The government has ordered tighter border controls for visitors, and some areas have reinstated rules on outdoor masks and ordered restaurants and bars to close early. Government spokesman Attal on Monday raised the possibility of closing nightclubs again, just days after they reopened.
Klarsfeld, whose father died in Auschwitz, rebuffed protesters’ demands for “freedom” and says the latest health measures were dictatorial, saying dictatorships adopt repressive measures to serve their own ends, while republics sometimes adopt measures necessary for the good of all.
“What freedom are they looking for? The freedom to be contagious? He asked.
In Germany last year, several people protested against virus restrictions on the Stars of David, prompting prominent German Jewish leader Josef Schuster to denounce a “disgusting instrumentalization” of the symbol.
In Russia, popular actor Yegor Beroyev wore a yellow star last month at an awards ceremony, speaking of “waking up to a world where (COVID-19 vaccination) has become an identifying mark” . It drew a lot of criticism but also scattered support. He spoke after the mayor of Moscow announced new restrictions on coronaviruses, including for restaurants. These restrictions only lasted three weeks.
Daria Litvinova in Moscow and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.