By JNS Staff and Marcy Oster / JTA
Following the discovery of a mass desecration of graves at a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg on Dec. 3, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced the next day that the country will open a national bureau to counter hate crimes.
A total of 107 graves in the cemetery were marked with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. Maurice Dahan, president of the Jewish consistory for the Bas-Rhin region, told AFP the day the graffiti was “a shock.”
The vandalism took place just hours after a similar one in the nearby village of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn, where anti-Jewish inscriptions were found. The previous week, anti-Semitic tags were drawn on the walls of the town hall in Rohr, not far from Westhoffen. Jewish officials said one of the slogans in the Rohr attack appeared to refer to the Jewish cemetery in Westhoffen, BBC reported.
Earlier this year in February, swastikas were discovered on 80 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, also near the border with Germany.
France is home to the third-largest Jewish population by country in the world after the U.S. and Israel. AFP reported a 74% increase in the number of anti-Jewish offences reported to French police in 2018.
Interior Minister Castaner, on a visit to the cemetery Dec. 4, said the attack was “an expression of pure hatred” and announced the creation of police taskforce against hate. The new office is to be part of France’s gendarmerie and will be charged with investigating anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian acts, said Castaner.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that “Jews are and make France. Those who attack them, even their graves, are not worthy of the idea we have of France.”
“Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight it in Westhoffen as everywhere until our dead can sleep in peace,” he wrote.
On Dec. 3, France’s National Assembly in Paris passed a nonbinding resolution stating that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and called on countries to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The final vote tally in the lower chamber was 154-72.