French government promises new anti-hate measures after headstones desecrated in Jewish cemetery
French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the desecration of graves that took place at Jewish cemetery in the Alsace region of France after unknown vandals sprayed swastikas on hundreds of headstones on Tuesday.
“The Jews are and make France. Those who attack them, even in their graves, are not worthy of the idea we have of France. Anti-semitism is a crime and we will fight it, in Westhoffen and everywhere, until our dead can sleep in peace,” Macron wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. The desecration took place in Westhoffen, a town of 1,700 people north of Strasbourg.
On Tuesday, anti-Semitic graffiti was also discovered on the Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn synagogue, a town about twenty kilometers from Westhoffen.
In response the French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, announced on Wednesday that a “national office to fight hate” would be created.
“The authors of these acts will be found and condemned. In our Republic, we respect the places of worship, we respect the cemeteries. Whatever the confession they are, or the absence of confession,” said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who expressed his “disgust” for the anti-semitic acts on Twitter.
The far-right leader Marine Le Pen also condemned the desecration of the Westhoffen cemetery. “Tomb desecrators must be treated with the greatest severity. They not only violate the rest of our dead, but also the very heart of our civilization values,” Le Pen said.
Among those affected is the family of Jean-Louis Debré, former French Interior Minister and former president of the Constitutional Council of France, who said he had felt “sadness” at what happened. “Sadness of seeing swastikas on families who lost members in Auschwitz. I also felt ashamed of those behind these desecrations. But also a sense of determination. We must more than ever come together to fight against all forms of hatred and exclusion,” Debré told Le Journal du Dimanche.
Similar cases of anti-semitic vandalism have occurred in other locations in Alsace in the last year. The Jewish cemetery of Quatzenheim was desecrated in February and that of Herrlisheim in December 2018. Anti-Semitic graffiti has also been discovered on the facades of town halls, houses and schools.
The largest Jewish community in Europe is in France, where an estimated 550,000 Jews live. The one in Alsace, which has between 25,000 and 30,000 members, is one of the largest in the country.