Swedish, French nationalists attempt damage control after slip-ups on Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Far-right parties in France and Sweden faced strong rebuke for statements deemed hostile to Jews.

In France, Christophe Boudot, the leader of a regional branch of the National Front, apologized last week for saying state subsidies should be stripped from a Holocaust memorial museum, which he argued was “too politicized” and seeking “repentance” that he said France did not need to offer.

Separately, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said in an unusual statement that the Sweden Democrats party had “Nazi and racist elements” following the publication of an email containing a racist joke about Jews and other minorities written by the party’s deputy vice chair.

Boudot’s Twitter apology was over his criticism of the “Maison d’Izieu Memorial for Jewish Children Murdered in the Holocaust,” a museum set up with government funding in 1994 some 300 miles southeast of Paris in the Rhône-Alpes region.


Boudot told the French television station TLM in an interview that his party “always voted against such subsidies because they aim to create a form of repentance, always the same one.” While saying he supported commemoration at large, Boudot said the museum “is too politicized, a little too much.” He later acknowledged that he has never visited the site.

The statements generated a sharp backlash in France, where the National Front under Marine Le Pen has struggled to improve its respectability by purging politicians espousing the open anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of its founder Jean Marie Le-Pen, the current leader’s father.

Jean Marie Le Pen last week appealed his expulsion last year from the party over a series of remarks considered a liability to the party’s image, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of World War II history. Many of his supporters sympathize with and venerate France’s collaborationist Vichy government, which helped the Nazis murder approximately one quarter of French Jewry.

In his Oct. 7 apology over his criticism of the memorial museum in Izieu, Boudot wrote: “Ill-informed about this issue, I made an error of judgement. I offer my apologies.”

On the same day, Löfven warned of the alleged racism of the Sweden Democrats, a party that like the National Front has attempted to distance itself from the racist rhetoric of many of its supporters and founders.

“This is a party with Nazi and racist roots, but it’s not just that they have these roots, it is there here and now,” the Swedish prime minister told Aftonbladet.

His rebuke followed the release of an email by Carina Herrstedt in which she ridiculed attempts to promote diversity in soccer with a joke that featured language deemed offensive to gays, blacks, nuns, Roma and Jews.

Last week, the Sweden Democrats were in the news over a party spokesperson’s lighthearted likening of Jews to sheep at a German abattoir and a lawmaker’s draft resolution singling out a Jewish family for what she said was their control of the media. Party leaders vowed to apply a zero tolerance to racism and said they are probing the party members and staff implicated  in the incidents.