Toppling of Strasbourg synagogue memorial sparks outcry against anti-Semitism
Mayor of French city says he is ‘very worried about the resurgence’ of Jewish hatred amid reported rise in anti-Semitic acts
Local officials and others spoke out against anti-Semitism Saturday after a memorial marking the site of Strasbourg’s Old Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, was apparently vandalized.
“Once again, enough is enough,” mayor Roland Ries wrote on Facebook Saturday before heading to the memorial.
Police have opened a probe, and a source said investigators would consult surveillance video and interview witnesses “to determine the origin of the incident, whether intentional or accidental.”
Visiting the site, Ries said evidence pointed to the act being a “new case of anti-Semitism.”
“I am very worried about this resurgence of anti-Semitism,” he said, according to local news site DNA.
The region has witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic acts, the latest on February 19 when 96 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, northwest of Strasbourg.
French officials have also spoken out against an uptick in anti-Semitic acts around the country, some of it tied to so-called yellow vest economic protests.
The toppled memorial, Reis said, was itself “a response to such repulsive acts, simultaneously symbolizing the actions and horrors of the Nazi regime and the French people’s power of resistance,” he said.
The 1.6-ton memorial stone stands next to the Avenue of the Righteous, dedicated to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, Ries noted.
It has been moved back into place.
The synagogue, which was built in 1898 and was the Strasbourg Jewish community’s main place of worship, was ransacked and burnt to the ground by Hitler Youth on September 30, 1940.
Strasbourg deputy mayor Alain Fontanel told journalists video surveillance showed that shortly before 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, a car was seen near the heavy monument, and added: “We have to see now if it was this car that committed the act.”
Thierry Roos, spokesman for the Israelite Consistory of the Lower Rhine region, told AFP the religious council “is distressed by the damage to this stone… whether it was intentional or not.”
The main Islamic mosque in Strasbourg in a statement said the incident had provoked “sadness, disgust, anger and revulsion” among its members.
It quoted the mosque’s president Said Aalla as condemning “this new anti-Semitic act with the greatest firmness.”
Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, which has a seat in Strasbourg, also condemned the damage done, and called for a “stop in the increase of anti-Semitism.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted: “Shocking images from Strasbourg. Anti Semitic hatred and vandalism are on the rise in France and throughout Europe.”
On December 11, the day of a deadly jihadist attack on Strasbourg’s Christmas market, 37 Jewish graves and a monument were desecrated in Herrlisheim, northeast of the city.
In February 2015, around 300 graves were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in nearby Sarre-Union, an act for which five adolescents were given suspended prison terms of eight to 18 months in 2017.