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Swastikas daubed on French vaccination centers, in apparent Nazi comparison

Health ministry reports 22 sites vandalized in recent weeks with symbols, as well as yellow stars, amid entry of health passport for those vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19

A municipal worker cleans swastikas spray painted on columns of the Rivoli Street in central Paris, on October 11, 2020. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)
A municipal worker cleans swastikas spray painted on columns of the Rivoli Street in central Paris, on October 11, 2020. (Stephane De Sakutin/AFP)

The French health ministry has said at least 22 health sites were vandalized in recent weeks, some with graffiti comparing the COVID-19 vaccination drive to the Holocaust.

Five coronavirus testing sites, 15 vaccination centers, a medical laboratory, and a health center were defaced since July 12, The Guardian reported on Thursday, citing the ministry.

A number of the sites were graffitied with swastikas, yellow stars, and the words “collaborators,” “Nazi” and “genocide.”

Anti-vaccine demonstrators in France, and around the world, have repeatedly compared the coronavirus vaccine to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Last Saturday, some 237,000 people across France demonstrated against a health document that is used to access a number of public places.

The French health pass is required at museums, movie theaters, tourist sites, and was expanded to restaurants and trains on August 9. To get it, people must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or proof they recently recovered from COVID-19.

An anti-vaccine protester wearing an ‘unvaccinated’ star holds a placard during a rally in Paris, on July 17, 2021 (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Police said a sign displayed at a protest in the eastern city of Metz was clearly antisemitic. The sign denounced President Emmanuel Macron’s enforcement of the health pass and contained the names of several prominent politicians, businessmen and intellectuals in France, most of them Jewish.

“We are creating a great inequality between citizens,’’ said one protester in Verona, who identified himself only as Simone because he said he feared for his livelihood. “We will have first-class citizens, who can access public services, the theater, social life, and second-class citizens, who cannot. This thing has led to apartheid and the Holocaust.”

Holocaust survivors call the comparison a distortion of history.

“They are madness, gestures in poor taste that intersect with ignorance,’’ said Liliana Segre, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and Italian senator for life. “It is such a time of ignorance, of violence that is not even repressed anymore, that has become ripe for these distortions.”

On Wednesday, a stone memorial commemorating the life of Holocaust survivor and former health minister Simone Veil was defaced with swastikas.

In this Tuesday, July 27, 2021 photo, people take part in a protest against the COVID-19 vaccination pass in Rome. Protesters in Italy and in France have been wearing yellow Stars of David, like the ones Nazis required Jews to wear to identify themselves during the Holocaust. Some carry signs likening vaccine passes to dictatorships. (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP, File)

In July, it was reported that Macron was suing a billboard operator who displayed a banner depicting him as Adolf Hitler. The posters showed the president dressed as the Nazi leader with text beneath reading: “Obey. Get vaccinated.”

In France, nearly 5 million got the first dose and more than 6 million got the second dose in the two weeks after Macron announced that the virus passes would be expanded to restaurants and many other public venues. Before that, vaccination demand had been waning for weeks.

France has reported more than 113,000 deaths in the pandemic, and new confirmed cases are increasing again, raising worries about renewed pressure on hospitals and further restrictions.

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