MONTREUIL-BELLAY, France, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- President Francois Hollande became the first head of state in France to acknowledge the nation's responsibility for the internment of thousands of Roma people during World War II.
Hollande marked the 70th anniversary of the closure of the camps Sunday.
"The republic acknowledges the suffering of traveling people who were interned and admits that it bears a great responsibility in this tragedy," Hollande told a crowd of 500 at Montreuil-Bellay, the largest of the 31 camps in which 6,000-6,500 Roma were interned. "A country, our country, is always greater when it acknowledges its history."
More than 2,000 Roma, also known as gypsies, were interned in Montreuil-Bellay between November 1941 and January 1945. About 100 died there.
The Vichy regime formed after France's 1940 surrender to Germany.
Germany did not order the mass deportation of Roma from France but deaths from other countries range from 220,000 to half a million.
In 1995, France publicly recognized deported thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps during the German occupation in World War II.
Hollande hinted that a law that requires travelling people to register at a police station every three months may be repealed. The 1940 law, passed by Marshall Philippe Pétain's colloborationist government, forbade Roma to travel in France. Hollande said it was the results of "mistrust fed by ancestral fears, prejudices and ignorance."
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Roma people are estimated in the country, though the government doesn't carry out a census based on ethnicity.