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Holocaust survivor calls out French protesters who compare COVID vaccines to Nazi terror

One wall of a large white tent sitting atop concrete is ragged and burned.
A tent stands empty at a vaccination site in southwestern France that was hit by an arson attack Saturday.
(Bob Edme / Associated Press)

A French Holocaust survivor has denounced anti-vaccination protesters who have likened themselves to Jews under persecution by Nazi Germany during World War II. French officials and anti-racism groups joined the 94-year-old in expressing indignation.

More than 100,000 people marched around France against government vaccine rules Saturday, some of them wearing yellow stars recalling the ones the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Other demonstrators carried signs evoking the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, saying that the French government was mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.

“You can’t imagine how much that upset me. This comparison is hateful. We must all rise up against this ignominy,” Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc said Sunday during a ceremony commemorating victims of antisemitic and racist acts by the French state, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler’s murderous regime.

“I wore the star. I know what that is. I still have it in my flesh,” Szwarc, who was deported from France by the Nazis, said with tears in his eyes. “It is everyone’s duty to not allow this outrageous, antisemitic, racist wave to pass over us.”

France’s secretary of state for military affairs, who also attended the ceremony, called the protesters’ actions “intolerable and a disgrace for our republic.”

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The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism said the protesters were “mocking victims of the Holocaust” and minimizing crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

Millions of people who have received COVID-19 vaccinations could still find themselves barred from entering certain countries in Europe and elsewhere.

Saturday’s protests involved a mix of people angry at the government for various reasons and included supporters of the far right. Prominent French far-right figures have been convicted in the past of antisemitism, racism and Holocaust denial.

The French government is introducing a bill Monday requiring all healthcare workers to get inoculated against COVID-19 and requiring vaccination passes to enter restaurants and other venues.

At a large protest in Paris on Saturday against vaccine rules, one demonstrator pasted a star on his back reading “Not vaccinated.” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris, drew a yellow star on his T-shirt and handed out armbands with the star.

“I will never get vaccinated. People need to wake up,” Auquier said, questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

The right-wing GOP firebrand says she is sorry for her comments comparing the required wearing of masks in the House to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Auquier expressed concern that the new measures would restrict his two children’s freedom and pledged to take them out of school if vaccination became mandatory.

Polls suggest that most French people support the measures, but they have prompted anger in some quarters. Vandals targeted two vaccination centers in southwest 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 COVID-19, and confirmed cases are increasing again, raising worries about renewed pressure on hospitals and further restrictions that would damage jobs and businesses.


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