LONDON — Far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, who called the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust a "minor detail" of World War II, Wednesday canceled a trip to Britain and was found guilty by a French court of provoking a public disturbance.
The cancellation was announced by Alfred Sherman, a Jew and former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had invited Le Pen and created a controversy of his own by describing the Nazi SS (elite force) troops who ran extermination camps as "decent young men" who were turned into "monsters" by Hitler's Nazi Germany.
"The SS were as much victims (of Hitler) as the Jews were," Sherman said Monday in defending his invitation to Le Pen. "Without Hitler they would have been decent young men but they were turned into monsters and died."
Sherman said that Le Pen, head of the National Front Party, decided not to visit Britain because of "media hysteria and misrepresentation" and because he did not want to "embarrass" his hosts.
Storm of Protest
Sherman's invitation and comments raised a storm of protest from Britain's 350,000-strong Jewish community and Conservative Party members.
A court in Nanterre, west of Paris, acted on a lawsuit filed against Le Pen by six associations of people deported to Nazi concentration camps during the war and two anti-racist groups.
The court found him guilty of "provoking an illicit disturbance" among surviving deportees and the families of victims in France.
Presiding Judge Germain Le Foyer du Costil ordered Le Pen to pay a symbolic 16 cents to each of the eight organizations and to give each $165 for their legal expenses.
The National Front said Le Pen will appeal.
Le Pen, who is running for president in the French elections next spring, said in a television interview Sept. 13 that the Nazi gas chamber extermination of the Jews was a "minor detail" in World War II history and that the existence of the chambers is still a subject of debate among historians.
Le Pen's Sept. 13 statement touched off a firestorm of criticism across the political spectrum in France.
He claimed that his remarks were intentionally misinterpreted by his opponents, which he listed as the news media, Communists, leftists and the pro-immigrant lobby. Le Pen said he meant to say that there were millions of deaths in the war, both Jews and other people, and that the deaths were terrible no matter how they died.