French authorities have ordered a criminal investigation into the comments, published in an interview he gave to the small extreme-right paper ‘Rivarol’.

“In France at least, the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses, – inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km,” he was quoted as saying.

“If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn’t have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees.”

“It’s not just from the European Union and globalisation that we need to deliver our country, but also from the lies about its history,” he added.

The politician’s office confirmed the interview had taken place, but couldn’t verify the exact comments saying no one had checked them against a recording.

French Justice Minister Dominique Perben has asked prosecutors to open a preliminary inquiry into the comments.

“He will have to explain himself before the justice system,” he said.

“I’m struck by the way Mr Le Pen has insulted the victims, their families, former combatants, those who were deported and all those who suffered during this dark period of our history.”

More than 70,000 French Jews were deported during the Nazi occupation from 1940 until 1944 while thousands of civilians also died at the hands of the German army.

Anti-racism laws in France make denying the Holocaust a crime, punishable by either fines or prison.

The 76-year-old National Front leader has a history of being controversial and has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on a number of occasions before.

In 1987 he called the Nazi gas chambers “a detail of the history of the Second World War.”

The National Front leader blames immigrants, especially from North Africa, for high unemployment in France.

Me Le Pen wants to deport all illegal immigrants and tighten border controls.

In France’s 2002 presidential election, Le Pen rewrote the political landscape by qualifying for a second round runoff.

Horrified voters rallied behind President Chirac in the second round, giving him a resounding 82 percent of the vote.

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