The founder of France’s National Front party and the party’s former chief and presidential candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, eulogized one of the most prominent Holocaust deniers in Europe after his death on Sunday.
Robert Faurisson, a UK-born academic who grew up in the city of Vichy, France, gained international attention as one of the most visible advocates of theories denying the Holocaust.
A staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the French leader who collaborated with Nazi occupiers of the country during World War II, Faurisson was the first person convicted in France of Holocaust denial, and was ultimately forced out of academia in 1991.
Faurisson claimed that Nazi Germany never pursued the systematic elimination of Jews, and called personal accounts of the Holocaust, like the Anne Frank diary, hoaxes.
Faurisson died in Vichy on Sunday, at the age of 89.
Following his death, Le Pen lauded Faurisson, calling him a “symbol of…free speech,” and attacked France’s ban on Holocaust denial.
“Faurisson is a symbol of the way free speech has been criminalised in this county,” Le Pen said in a statement. “The State went through great lengths to silence Faurisson for decades.”
Le Pen himself was convicted on several occasions for comments regarding the Holocaust, including a 1987 statement in which he dismissed the Holocaust as “just a detail” of World War II history.
"I ask myself several questions. I'm not saying the gas chambers didn't exist. I haven't seen them myself. I haven't particularly studied the question. But I believe it's just a detail in the history of World War II."
Le Pen’s history of controversial statements, including those regarding the Holocaust, led his daughter, who succeeded him as head of the National Front in 2011, to distance herself from him, and later to expel him from the party.