Jewish graves atacked in eastern France

30th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

COLMAR, France, April 30 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Friday vowed to punish vandals who scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on 127 graves in a Jewish cemetery near the eastern French town of Colmar.

COLMAR, France, April 30 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Friday vowed to punish vandals who scrawled swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on 127 graves in a Jewish cemetery near the eastern French town of Colmar.

"Anti-Semitism is contrary to all of our values, all of our principles and to all of the ideals of the republic," Chirac said in a statement after the defaced headstones were discovered early in the day by a city worker.

The grave stones were marked with swastikas, as well as sayings glorifying Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

On a stone near the cemetery entrance inscribed with a prayer in Hebrew, vandals wrote "Juden raus" (Jews out).

Elsewhere in the graveyard, stones and monuments were marked with the words "Adolf" and "Hitler", along with the dates "April 30, 1945" and "April 30, 2004". April 30, 1945, is believed to be the day that Hitler committed suicide.

Police were combing the cemetery for clues but did not offer any information about who could have been behind the acts of vandalism.Chirac vowed to punish those responsible for what he called the "abominable and intolerable acts" committed in the isolated cemetery near the villages of Hattstatt and Herrlisheim, located in the middle of a vineyard.

"This desecration, which comes in the wake of a series of attacks against the Jewish and Muslim communities, must be firmly condemned and will be fought with unwavering determination," the office of centre-right prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, said.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin and junior victims' rights minister Nicole Guedj were quickly dispatched to the scene. De Villepin was to meet Jewish leaders and local officials at the scene, his ministry said.

The incident came one month after the European Union's racism watchdog named France as one of five countries in the bloc where anti-Semitic attacks were cause for particular concern.

In a report released on March 31, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia said the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France had increased sixfold in 2002.

Chirac's government has vowed to stamp out anti-Semitic acts through stiff punishment in the courts and awareness programs in schools.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday pledged to monitor hate crimes, include the Holocaust in school lesson plans and improve legal ways to fight anti-Semitic harassment and violence.

France's outspoken finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, sparked controversy this week when he claimed the country's former Socialist government had "managed to make people in the United States think that France was an anti-Semitic country".

The opposition Socialists demanded an apology from Sarkozy after his remarks in parliament, but he refused to give one.

French authorities have put the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2003 at 125, a drop of nearly 40 percent, but Israel has said the figure nearly doubled last year from 77 to 141 incidents.


© AFP

                                               Subject: French news

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