In the interview, Le Pen told Rivarol magazine that “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 square kilometres.
“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.”
The court ruled that Le Pen “tried to sow doubt over what may have been committed by the Nazis on French territory, such as the deportation of the Jews of the persecution of Resistance members, both crimes against humanity.”
Le Pen also partially exonerated the German army over a 1944 massacre of 86 people in the town of Villeneve d’Ascq, saying it was the work of a lieutenant “mad with rage” over the death of comrades in a resistance attack, and that it was the Gestapo who intervened to stop the killings.
For this the court found him guilty of “deliberate historical falsification” and of giving “a positive image of the Gestapo” by “occulting the crimes it committed.”
Le Pen’s version was disputed during the trial by the mayor of Villeneuve d’Ascq and by prosecutor Anne de Fontette, who said it was like calling the Gestapo “the blue berets of the 1940s.”
The far-right leader said in 2005 he felt “absolutely no guilt” over his remarks and claimed he was a victim of “persecution” after he was unanimously condemned by French politicians and campaign groups.
With the help of the collaborationist Vichy government, the German authorities deported more than 70,000 French Jews to death camps, and thousands of French civilians died in reprisals by the German army, especially towards the end of the war.
However, historical debate has raged over the degree of French acceptance of the 1940 to 1944 occupation, which for most of the time was relatively peaceful compared to the experiences of countries in eastern Europe.
Le Pen, who founded the FN in 1972, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on previous occasions.
In 1987 he described the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail of history”.
In 2002 he shocked Europe by making it through to the second round of France’s presidential election.
But his fortunes have recently slumped, and his party faces millions of dollars of debts after losing state subsidies thanks to its unexpectedly poor showing in last year’s parliamentary elections.
Le Pen was forced last month to put his party’s historic headquarters on the market to stem the financial crisis.