Source AP ©

France cancels World War II re-enactment

The re-enactment of the WWII battle in Normandy was canceled by the French Defense Minister, who also warned to be cautious about similar events nationwide for fear they could encourage neo-Nazi sentiment.

A re-enactment at the coastal battery of Crisbecq in Normandy, scheduled to coincide with a National Heritage Weekend Sept. 14-15, was canceled the night before the event, the ministry's department for veterans affairs said Wednesday.

Following that decision, the junior minister for veterans affairs, Alain Marleix, sent a letter Tuesday to all of France's prefects, or top regional officials, warning them to take care that re-enactments in their regions were carried out "in a purely commemorative context" and did not encourage for "extremist" sentiment.

While he recognized the "undeniable" educational value of re-enactments, Marleix added they should not be "transformed into manifestations exalting military combat."

He also said they should not allow groups and individuals "whose fascination for the Third Reich is, or risks appearing, ambiguous ... to trivialize the presence of Nazi occupiers on French soil during World War II."

The Interior Ministry has estimated that about 3,000 people belong to neo-Nazi movements in France, home to Western Europe's largest Jewish population. Such movements have been blamed for vandalism of several Jewish graveyards and occasional violence in recent years.