• France edition
 
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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws
Meeting your French in-laws doesn't have to be scary. Photo: AFP

Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws

Even back home meeting the in-laws for the first time is scary, but as a foreigner in France it's doubly stressful. So here's ten tips from the Comme une Française blog to help you survive and even thrive with your new family. READ  

How France compares to Europe:  Unemployment
How does France compare to its neighbours when it comes to unemployment.Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

How France compares to Europe: Unemployment

The jobless total in France hit a new record high this month with 3.424 million people out of work. Is it only in France that records are being broken? The Local takes a look at why the numbers are more positive in at least some of France's neighbours. READ  

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight
A Frenchman freaked out on a US plane over a reclined seat and is in big trouble. Photo: Doug/Flickr

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight

A Parisian man faces jail after losing his cool on a France-bound flight from the US over a passenger who reclined his seat just a bit too far. His outburst comes on the heels of the now infamous “Knee Defender” melee aboard another American plane. READ  

French police in race to find sick British boy
Ashya King, who police in France are desperately trying to track down. Photo: YouTube/Naveed King

French police in race to find sick British boy

Police in France and Britain faced a race against time on Friday in their hunt to find a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who officials in France believe was "kidnapped" from a UK hospital by his family. READ  

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'
A third of French women say they afraid to walk in their neighbourhood. Photo: Takato Marul/Flickr

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'

Recent studies suggest women in France do not feel safe walking the streets of their neighbourhoods and many are afraid of walking around Paris at night. Some argue that gender inequality in the country is partly to blame. READ  

Feature - Wingsuit flying
Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps
Wingsuit flying has taken off in France despite dangers. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps

A mountain in the French Alps has become a hot spot for the high-risk and often deadly extreme sport of wingsuit flying. And the seemingly hairbrained alpine activity where "there is no margin for error" attracts a lot of "dangerous egos". READ  

British killer escapes from hospital in France
French police have launched a manhunt for an escaped British killer. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

British killer escapes from hospital in France

A mentally ill British man is on the run in France after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, where he was forcibly committed after beating a man to death with a four-kilo weight. READ  

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?
France may not be suffering from a brain drain after all, but it's not as attractive as the UK or Germany. Photo: Leaving.

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?

The latest European Union figures cast a bit of doubt on worries the moribund French economy is prompting a mass brain drain. However the stats do suggest France is far less attractive than the UK and Germany when it comes to certain professions. READ  

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations
Bed bugs are biting in France. Photo: Shutterstock

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations

The infestation of French cities by bed bugs is worse than ever before with hygiene services overwhelmed, according to reports. READ  

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems
IMF chief Christine Lagarde's situation is to be reviewed after she was placed under investigation. Photo: AFP

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems

International Monetary Fund board members will meet "as soon as possible" to review the situation of their chief Christine Lagarde, who was placed under formal investigation in Paris this week for alleged "negligence". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
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