• France's news in English
 
France to probe MP's Hitler rant over Roma
The field taken over by travellers where MP Gilles Bourdouleix was alleged to have made his comments about Hitler. Photos: Screen grabs from YouTube.

France to probe MP's Hitler rant over Roma

Published: 22 Jul 2013 19:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jul 2013 19:00 GMT+02:00

Prosecutors in France opened a preliminary criminal investigation on Tuesday into French MP Gilles Bourdouleix from the centre-right UDI party, after he allegedly suggested "Hitler did not exterminate enough" Roma during the Holocaust. 

He is alleged to have made the shocking remarks when he was involved in a heated exchange with a French traveller community, who has set up camp in his town.

Local prosecutor Yves Gambert said his office had opened a probe into Bourdouleix's, who could now face charges of "defending a crime against humanity"

After the National Front's Jean-Marie Le Pen landed himself in trouble recently for calling the Roma community "smelly" and "rash-inducing, and the mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi branded the same community "criminals" in a recent outburst, Bourdouleix the MP from the Maine and Loire region of western France, has become the latest to cause offence when talking about a travelling community.

The MP went to meet members of a travelling community who had just set up home in field in the commune of Cholet, where he is also deputy mayor. 

'Most barbaric act of the 20th century'

Accompanied by a police escort, the mayor had gone to confront the community on Sunday night, all of whom belong to the evangelical mission Vie et Lumière.

After asking them to move on the atmosphere reportedly became a little tense and several members of the travelling community apparently made Nazi salutes in the direction of Bourdouleix.

It was then that he reacted. According to French regional paper Le Courrier de L’Ouest he was heard making  the comment: “maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough” in apparent reference to the extermination of around 250,000 Gypsies at the hands of the Nazis.

His words have provoked a torrent of condemnation from political parties across France but Bourdouleix, who denies making the remarks, may have to save his explanations for a French court.

If he is convicted of justifying a crime against humanity he could face up to five years in prison. 

"Nothing can justify or excuse an elected official of the Republic making such a reference to the most barbaric act of the twentieth century," said the local prefecture said in a statement.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Bourdouleix should be "heavily punished by the courts".

"These comments are a defence of crimes committed in the Second World War, a defence of Nazism and coming from a mayor, from a member of parliament, it's completely intolerable," he said on TV channel i-TELE.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Bourdouleix's comments were "not worthy of an elected representative" and were "punishable by law".

SEE ALSO: France vows to continue Roma evictions

Comments recorded and posted online

For his part the MP, when questioned about the comment, was heard to justify it by saying: “You compared me to Hitler, do you think that’s nice?"

Undeterred, the deputy allegedly went on to accuse the community of incestuous behaviour. “The other day, they called me a paedophile. Even though half of their children are from fathers and grandfathers," he said.

Following the publication of the article, Bourdouleix accused the paper of “having totally skewed" his words and said he would “lodge a complaint against the paper, the journalist and all the media outlets who repeat this false quote”.

His real comment, which had apparently been uttered under his breath, he claims, was in fact: “If it was Hitler, he would have killed them all”.

Fabien Leduc, the journalist who recorded the quote has since published an audio recording of the alleged comment online.  Prosecutors have also ordered that the recording of the remark be analysed to see if it was altered.

'Nothing justifies these remarks'

The recording appeared to have convinced the UDI’s party leader Jean-Louis Borloo, who was swift to condemn the alleged comments.

“Whatever the real and unacceptable provocations the Deputy Mayor of Cholet, Gilles Bourdouleix was subjected to, nothing justifies the remarks apparently made by him, if the recording put online by the Courrier de l’Ouest this afternoon is to be believed," said Borloo.

He added that the matter would now be passed on to the UDI’s executive committee.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the secretary general of the UDI party, which was formed in September 2012, has suggested that Bourdouleix must be expelled from the party.

In two tweets Lagarde said: "The words of Bourdouleix, even made in the heat of the moment, were intolerable and incompatible with the values of the UDI."

He added: "The only possible sanction is his exclusion from the UDI which should be adopted by the executive committee next Wednesday."

The Roma and France

Confrontations between French authorities and Roma erupt frequently.

France has a policy of systematically dismantling illegal camps and repatriating Roma of Bulgarian and Romanian nationality -- a policy whose legality has been questioned by the European Union, the United Nations' human rights arm and other watchdogs.

The European Association for the Defence of Human Rights says almost 12,000 Roma were evicted from camps across France last year, 80 percent of them forcibly.

Sophie Inge (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French film industry to honour Sean Penn
Sean Penn and Charlie Theron. The couple has been romantically linked since June, 2014. Photo: AFP

French film industry to honour Sean Penn

US actor Sean Penn is to win an honorary French film award in Paris next month, with officials recognizing him for being a "living legend" of cinema. READ  

Hollande to French Jews: 'France is your home'
French President Francois Hollande lays a wreath at the Holocaust memorial in Paris. Photo: AFP

Hollande to French Jews: 'France is your home'

French president François Hollande told the nation's Jewish community on Tuesday that France is their "homeland", as he announced a set of plans to fight racism and anti-Semitism in France. READ  

Nine French dead after fighter jet crashes
Smoke rises from the Spanish air base after the crash. Photo: AFP

Nine French dead after fighter jet crashes

UPDATED: The death of a ninth French national was confirmed late on Tuesday morning, as the the death toll rises to eleven after a Greek fighter jet crashed at a military base in Spain on Monday. READ  

BREAKING
At least five held in 'anti-jihadist' raid in France
This file photo shows French police carrying out an counter-terrorist raid on a property. Photo: AFP

At least five held in 'anti-jihadist' raid in France

UPDATED: At least five people have been arrested after an anti-jihadist operation in southern France, which is still ongoing. READ  

Anti-Semitic acts double in France
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat and Police Chief of Jerusalem Moshe Edry at the kosher supermarket in Paris where four died in a terror attack this month. Photo: AFP

Anti-Semitic acts double in France

There were twice as many anti-Semitic incidents recorded in France in 2014 compared to the year before, the country's main Jewish group announced on Tuesday. READ  

Paris Terror Attacks
French police to get more guns and vests
French police officers guard a mosque shortly after the Paris terror attacks took place. Photo: AFP

French police to get more guns and vests

The French government has announced that it will send out an additional 4,000 handguns and 8,000 bulletproof vests to aid the national police force as the dust settles after the Paris terror attacks. READ  

The view from France
'Syriza victory is good news for French people'
Alexis Tsipras raises his arm as he celebrates being named Greece's new PM. Photo: AFP

'Syriza victory is good news for French people'

A French Communist Party senator tells The Local the result of the Greek election can be a wake-up call for the people of France. READ  

Road Safety in France
France bans hands-free kits to cut road deaths
A dummy goes flying at a crash test course for students in Le Mans, north-western France. Photo: AFP

France bans hands-free kits to cut road deaths

UPDATED: France's interior minister announced a raft of measures on Monday aimed at improving road safety, with a heavy focus on preventing alcohol-related accidents as well the use of mobiles at the wheel. READ  

Isis urges new attacks after Paris shootings
France has bolstered security across the country since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. Photo: AFP

Isis urges new attacks after Paris shootings

The Islamic State jihadist group Isis urged Muslims on Monday to carry out new attacks similar to the Paris shooting at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 17 people were killed. READ  

French hardline Catholics buy up gay bar
A gay bar in Toulon has been bought by a Catholic group. Photo: Guillaume Paumier

French hardline Catholics buy up gay bar

A hardline French Catholic group has bought the gay bar next to its local church, hoping to turn it into a religious meeting place. But the head of the city's gay community tells The Local that the church will need "a whole bunch of exorcists" to turn it around. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
France bars parents from naming baby 'Nutella'
National
France has no entrepreneurs!? What about fart pills for windy lovers?
Society
Nutella to Happy: The wacky French baby names banned by law
Culture
Men's Fashion Week in Paris in pictures - from penises to androgyny
Health
Could France be the next country to ban sunbeds?
Gallery
Ten French words you will never hear in France
National
Wrap up warm: Big freeze to hit northern France at the weekend
National
Muslims in France - 'They say we're not French'
National
Paris wants New York-inspired 'citizen cards'
Gallery
An architect has shown how he thinks Paris should look in 2050
Culture
Where are the real "no-go zones" in Paris? We've listed 10.
Society
Cheese diet helps oldest Frenchman live to 110
National
Charlie Hebdo chief stands firm over cartoons as global protests spread
National
'It feels like I'm in a warzone': Paris tourist
National
Are there really 'no-go zones' in Paris?
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
National
A futuristic vision of Paris revealed... and other news
National
What now for France post-terror attacks?
National
France to beef up its surveillance powers
National
Charlie Hebdo sells out within hours in France
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
France moves to crack down on terror speech in aftermath of attacks
National
French Muslims react to Charlie Hebdo's Muhammad cover
National
'I only had a few seconds to hide from the Kouachis'
National
After three days of terror France feels like a nation
National
IN PICTURES: France's biggest street demos in recent history
National
And in other news in France ...
National
A defiant France rises up on solidarity like never before
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Paris marches for unity after terror attacks
National
OPINION: 'As bloody as it's been, France is not at war'
National
'It's a true nightmare': Parisians react to terror attacks
National
French to march in unity to help heal their wounded nation
National
Profile: the most wanted woman in France
National
Twitter disgust over 'I am Kouachi' hashtag
National
The incredible stories of how some survived the Paris gunmen
National
Al Qaeda threatens a shaken France with more terror
Gallery
The Paris terror attacks from start to end in 27 photographs
National
Global leaders to stand side by side with France
National
French Muslim leaders slam 'odious' attacks
National
Charlie Hebdo gunmen killed as twin siege ends
Gallery
10 of the most powerful cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo attacks
National
Disunited: French far-right 'barred' from national unity rally in Paris
National
Muslim targets attacked after magazine killings
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

454
jobs available