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80 graves vandalised at French Jewish cemetery

Updated February 20, 2019

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A man walks by graves vandalised with swastikas at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of a nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.  — AFP
A man walks by graves vandalised with swastikas at the Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, on February 19, 2019, on the day of a nationwide marches against a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. — AFP

PARIS: Around 80 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, authorities said on Tuesday, hours ahead of nationwide marches called to denounce a surge in anti-Semitic vandalism and hate speech.

The damage was discovered at a cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region, a statement from the regional security office said.

Photos show the Nazi symbols in blue paint on the damaged graves, one of which bears the words “Elsassisches Schwarzen Wolfe” (“Black Alsacian Wolves), a separatist group with links to neo-Nazis in the 1970s.

The top security official for the region, Jean-Luc Marx, condemned “in the strongest possible terms this awful anti-Semitic act and sends his complete support to the Jewish community which has been targeted again”.

“It just doesn’t stop, it’s shock after shock,” Maurice Dahan, the regional head of France’s main Jewish institution, the Israelite Central Consistory of France, said.

In December nearly 40 graves as well as a monument to Holocaust victims were desecrated at another Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg in Herrlisheim, about a half-hour drive from Quatzenheim.

President Emmanuel Macron will travel to the cemetery to inspect the damage, before visiting the Paris Holocaust memorial, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told RTL radio.

Rallies are planned in Paris and other cities to denounce a flare-up of anti-Semitic vandalism in recent weeks, often coinciding with “yellow vest” anti-government protests.

Politicians on both the right and left have called for a massive turn-out after a prominent French writer was the target of a violent tirade by a protester in Paris on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019