Fire swept through a Jewish community center in eastern Paris in the early morning hours today after arsonists broke into the building and scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans inside. It was the latest in a wave of neo-Nazi acts sweeping the country.
The center, which prepares kosher food for needy Jews, occupies the ground floor of a five-story residential building. There were no casualties.
The attack comes at a particularly sensitive time for the city, falling between two emotional anniversaries. On Aug. 18, 1944, the Red Cross entered a Nazi detention camp outside of Paris, freeing about 1,500 Jews awaiting deportation to extermination camps in Germany. A week later, Paris itself was liberated from the Nazis.
Much of this year’s neo-Nazi activity in France has been concentrated in the eastern region of Alsace, a traditionally German-speaking area along the German border. Officials there say Alsace’s neo-Nazi movement is an extension of a broader movement in Germany. On Saturday, about 3,000 people took part in a neo-Nazi march in the German town of Wunsiedel, about 250 miles from Alsace, to commemorate the death, in 1987, of Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess.
More than a dozen neo-Nazi acts have taken place across France this year, in some cases by lone copycats with no clear relationship to an organized movement. Earlier this month, for example, an emotionally disturbed man named Michael Tronchon attacked a North African man with a hatchet and desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Lyon before turning himself in to the police in Paris. He told the police that he had been inspired by an earlier case of neo-Nazi vandalism in Alsace.
According to France’s interior ministry statistics, there have been 135 acts of physical violence against Jews so far this year and 95 against Arabs and other ethnic groups, though there are nearly 10 times as many Arabs as Jews in France.
On Aug. 14, vandals drew a swastika and wrote “death to the Jews” on a low wall in front of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral.
France has toughened punishments for anti-Semitic and anti-racist crimes. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, visiting the site of today’s attack, said the arsonists could face life in prison under the new law.
“France has toughened punishments for anti-Semitic and anti-racist crimes.” [emphasis mine]
Is it now a crime to be “anti-racist” in France? Or is the NYT screwing the pooch once again?
Anyway, it appears Sharon was right. French Jews should move to Israel, where they will only have to deal with lunatic Palestinians, as opposed to the much more numerous lunatic Frenchmen.
Personally, I’d rather die in Israel than live in France. YMMV…