The road of Jacques Chirac often crossed the one of the French Jewish community, even before he became President of the Republic.
In 1986, Jacques Chirac is Prime Minister and Mayor of Paris. At the annual ceremony of the commemoration of the Vel d'Hiv roundup, he was already calling on France to ward off the demons of racism and xenophobia.
"Jacques Chirac quickly positioned himself as a President fundamentally committed against the hatred of the other" recalls the President of Crif Francis Kalifat.
Jacques Chirac has always been mobilized against antisemitism and has always shown a sincere friendship to Jewish French. In 2003, he hosted Crif board at the Elysée Palace on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the institution. In a striking speech, after a reminder of the main events in the history of Crif, he congratulated the institution for its deeply republican work and strongly condemned the French antisemitism: "Antisemitism is contrary to all the values of France. It is intolerable, antisemitic acts must be fought relentlessly and prosecuted with the utmost severity, and no one in France should be attacked because of their origin or religion."
Francis Kalifat remembers this special anniversary: "The President of the Republic paid a vibrant tribute to the work of Crif and place the association in the republican tradition, a reality that is undeniable."
The same year, on November 17, he reacts firmly to the attack of a Jewish school in a Paris suburb. He states that he expects "severity and speed in the punishment of antisemitic acts".
Let us also remember this sentence, perhaps one of those which will be borrowed the most from President Chirac: "When you attack a Jew, you attack the entire France."
In 2006, Jacques Chirac paid an important tribute to Captain Alfred Dreyfus. This ceremony was organized at the Ecole Militaire, a symbolic place where Alfred Dreyfus was degraded in 1895, then re-decorated on July 21, 1906.
On this occasion, Jacques Chirac said: "The rehabilitation of Alfred Dreyfus is the victory of the Republic, the victory of the unity of France, the rejection of racism and anti-Semitism, the the defense of human rights, the primacy of justice: all these values are part of our heritage, they may seem to us to be acquired, but we must always be vigilant: the fight against the dark forces, injustice, intolerance and hate is never finished."
"I salute the unwavering commitment of President Jacques Chirac against antisemitism, and the work he did in 2006 in memory of Captain Dreyfus." declares the President of Crif.
Remembrance of the Holocaust
"In the history of the remembrance of the Holocaust, there is a before and an after 1995." Francis Kalifat, President of Crif
Jacques Chirac has also worked very much for the remembrance of the Holocaust.
"We must not forget that Jacques Chirac was the first Mayor of France to proceed the laying of a commemorative plaque, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, in memory of Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust," said Francis Kalifat.
In 1987, he went to Roglit, Israel, in front of the memorial of the French Jews, and declared there "We will not forget the sacrifices of so many men, women and children who died just because they were Jewish."
A few years later, in 1995, Jacques Chirac is now President of the Republic. On July 16, during the ceremony commemorating the Vel d'Hiv roundup, he delivered an historic speech on the responsibility of the French state in the deportation of French Jews. An unprecedented statement that marks hearts and minds. For Jacques Chirac, it is time for France face its history. His speech induces a real political break that will be followed by three successive Presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron. His essential words have also changed the way in which he speaks and teaches the history of the Holocaust. It is the first time that a President of the Republic recognizes the responsibility of France in the deportation of Jews.
"Today, this speech is, I believe, in all minds, it has deeply marked the national narrative concerning the deportation of the French Jews. In the History of the remembrance of the Holocaust, there is a before, and an after 1995." says the President of Crif Francis Kalifat.
His work for the memory continues with the inauguration of the Shoah Memorial in 2005 in Paris, then in 2007 with the entrance of the French Righteous among the Nations in the Pantheon, an action that he carries out together with Simone Veil then President of the Foundation for the Remembrance of the Holocaust.
"If he had a sincere friendship with the Jewish community in France, Jacques Chirac had a more complicated relationship with Israel." says Francis Kalifat. "We have in mind the famous incident with Israeli security officials during his visit to the Old City of Jerusalem on October 22, 1996, during his official trip to the Middle East." His often unbalanced position characterized at the time French politics in the Middle East. " he concluded.