President Francois Hollande has acknowledged the French state's role in the Nazi persecution of Gypsies held in Nazi internment camps during World War II.

France's collaborationist Vichy regime helped deport Jews to death camps and send Gypsies to internment camps. Former President Jacques Chirac acknowledged France's role in the Holocaust in 1997, and on Saturday Hollande called attention to the Gypsies' plight.

"The republic recognizes the suffering of the nomads who were interned, and admits its responsibility is large," Hollande said at a former internment camp in western France.

France has historically been home to hundreds of thousands of "gens du voyage" who move from town to town and are French citizens. They consider themselves distinct from Roma who have arrived more recently from Romania or Bulgaria. Both face discrimination.