A French Holocaust survivor blasted French protesters using yellow stars, similar those the Nazis made Jews wear, in order to protest COVID-19 vaccines.
France saw 100,000 people protest the government’s vaccine rules in marches around the country Saturday as a bill is to be introduced Monday requiring the vaccination of all health care workers, as well as vaccine passes to enter certain venues such as restaurants, the Associated Press reported. Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc called the protesters’ comparisons of government restrictions to the Nazi regime “hateful” and said, “We must all rise up against this ignominy.”
“I wore the star, I know what that is, I still have it in my flesh,” Szwarc said tearfully while speaking at a Sunday ceremony in memory of victims of antisemitism in France when the French state worked with Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany.
“It is everyone’s duty to not allow this outrageous, antisemitic, racist wave to pass over us,” Szwarc said.
In Paris, protester and town councilor Bruno Auquier, 53, drew a yellow star on his shirt Saturday and distributed arm bands with the symbol. “I will never get vaccinated,” he said.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
French officials and anti-racism groups joined the 94-year-old Szwarc in expressing indignation.
Other demonstrators on Saturday carried signs evoking the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, claiming the French government was unfairly mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.
“You can’t imagine how much that upset me. This comparison is hateful,” Szwarc said Sunday.
He was deported from France by the Nazis.
France’s secretary of state for military affairs, who also attended the ceremony, called the protesters’ actions “intolerable and a disgrace for our republic.”
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.
Saturday’s protests involved a mix of people angry at the government for various reasons, and notably supporters of the far right. Prominent French far-right figures have been convicted in the past of antisemitism, racism and denying the Holocaust.
At a large protest in Paris on Saturday against vaccine rules, one demonstrator pasted a star on his back reading “not vaccinated.”
“People need to wake up,” Auquier said, questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. He lives on the outskirts of Paris.
Auquier expressed concern that the new measures would restrict his two children’s freedom and pledged to take them out of school if vaccination becomes mandatory.
Polls suggest 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 in the pandemic, and new confirmed cases are increasing again, raising worries about renewed pressure on hospitals and further restrictions that would damage jobs and businesses.