Jean-François Jalkh, Marine Le Pen’s second-in-command, denied he ever said it, but BuzzFeed News spoke to a researcher who has his comments recorded on tape.
Marine Le Pen, who faces independent Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential vote on May 7, stepped down Monday as the leader of the far-right National Front party, handing the keys to her second-in-command, Jean-François Jalkh.
The move is a symbolic step intended to distance Le Pen from the party so she can “meet the people.”
Le Pen has worked to “de-demonize” the National Front, which has long been associated with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, a crime in France.
She’s gone so far as to kick her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, out of the party, which he founded in 1972, over the issue.
But Jalkh, the party’s new leader, appears to have questioned the Holocaust himself, particularly the existence and usage of gas chambers.
In a dissertation interview in 2000, Jalkh discussed “the problem of gas chambers” and the theories of convicted Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson.
“I think we should be able to discuss this problem,” Jalkh said at the time. “Even a guy like Faurisson, he says: I’m asking you, I’m asking a number of technical questions. … On the use, for instance, of a gas called Zyklon B, I think it’s impossible, I mean impossible, to use it from a technical point of view … in mass exterminations.”
The remarks were published in a 2005 article in the French research journal Le Temps des savoirs and surfaced this week by Laurent de Boissieu, a journalist with La Croix.
Jalkh immediately denied making the comments, and Le Pen campaign manager David Rachline defended him on television Wednesday morning, saying the case was “obviously based on false accounts.”
But Magali Boumaza, the PhD student who interviewed Jalkh for her dissertation on the National Front, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he did make those remarks questioning the Nazi gas chambers, and she has them on tape.
Boumaza said she spoke to Jalkh for three hours at the National Front headquarters, and during the conversation “there was this revisionist release which lasted two or three minutes at the most.”
“Nothing has been falsified. I confirm the words are as they were written down,” she told BuzzFeed News by phone from Istanbul, where she works at the University of Galatasaray.
Jalkh, Rachline, National Front vice-president Florian Philippot, and the party’s press service did not return requests for comment.