Times Square, New York City
Times Square, New York City Gili Yaari/Flash 90

American Jewish groups are up in arms over an official street marker in Manhattan honoring a Nazi collaborator responsible for the deportation of thousands of Jews to German concentration camps.

The City of New York recently decided to honor historical figures who had been welcomed in the city since 1886 with ticker-tape parades, transforming 13 blocks of Manhattan’s historic Broadway into the “Canyon of Heroes”.

But some pedestrians walking down Broadway were taken aback to see that among the figures included as “heroes” was perhaps the world’s most famous Nazi collaborator: Henri Philippe Petain, Prime Minister of Vichy France.

Petain, a World War I general who led the French Second Army at the Battle of Verdun, was honored in 1931 for his defense of France against German invasion.

His subsequent service to the French nation, however, led to a treason conviction and a death sentence later commuted to a life sentence behind bars.

A pliable leader willing to accept German suzerainty, Petain was appointed Prime Minister on the eve of Germany’s victory over France in 1940. Under his administration, France accepted German control over much of the country, and established the new anti-Semitic Vichy government, based in the town of Vichy.

Thousands of French Jews were deported to Germany during Petain’s rule, and Vichy France actively aided the Axis powers in North Africa during the “Operation Torch” Allied invasion in 1942.

Despite the notoriety gained after his 1931 hero’s welcome, Petain was nevertheless included in the Canyon of Heroes, with a marker honoring him – just two blocks away from a similar marker for David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister.

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind blasted Petain’s inclusion in the Canyon of Heroes and called for the removal of the marker.

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