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France: Macron condemns 'odious' Holocaust Memorial attack

May 15, 2024

Authorities and Jewish groups have condemned a graffiti attack on the anniversary of a Nazi round-up of Jews, calling it a "hateful rallying cry." A criminal complaint has been filed over the incident.

A man in an orange jacket powerwashes a sidewalk in front of the Paris Holocaust Memorial
City workers quickly removed graffiti from the Wall of the Righteous Holocaust Memorial in an attack that coincided with the arrest of Jews in the city in 1941 Image: Ait Adjedjou Karim/ABACA/IMAGO

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday condemned a graffiti attack on Paris' Wall of the Righteous Holocaust Memorial as an act of "odious antisemitism," that "damages the memory" of those who saved Jews during the Holocaust as well as victims of Nazi persecution.

Macron made the comments in a statement on the social media platform X, vowing, "the Republic, as always, will remain steadfast." 

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo likewise condemned the act earlier in the day, saying, "The Wall of the Righteous at the Shoah [Holocaust] Memorial was vandalized overnight in an unspeakable act."

The president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) Yonathan Arfi called the attack a "hateful rallying cry against Jews," decrying the targeting of the memorial as "despicable."

A reminder of dark days

The central Paris monument serves as a reminder of those 3,900 people who risked their lives to help save Jews during the Nazi occupation of France from 1940-1944.

Tuesday's incident, in which some 20 blood-red hands were painted on the memorial, coincided with the anniversary of the Nazi's first major round-up of Jews in France on May 14, 1941.

Several other Jewish institutions, including schools and nurseries, were targeted nearby according to Marais District Mayor Ariel Weil.

France has the world's third-largest Jewish population outside Israel and the US, as well as having Europe's largest Arab population.

Paris Mayor Hidalgo said that city prosecutors had filed a criminal complaint over the attack.

Men in suits (16th District Mayor Francis Szpiner and EU Parliamentarian Francois-Xavier Bellamy) inspect a wall painted with 13 red hands
Several Jewish institutions, such as schools and nurseries, were also targeted on Tuesday Image: Ait Adjedjou Karim/ABACA/picture alliance

Symbolism of the red hand — prevalent and disturbing

France has been on high alert for antisemitic acts since the Islamist militant organization Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

In January, CRIF said it had recorded a "quadrupling" of antisemitic attacks between October 7 and the end of 2023 as compared to the same period the year before.

The French Interior Ministry reported a "marked acceleration" in crimes "committed because of the ethnicity, nationality, supposed race or religion" during that period in a report that it released in March.

In a post on X, Deputy Minister for Democratic Renewal Prisca Thevenot referenced recent "pro-Palestinian" student protests in Paris, in which some were seen with their hands painted red.

The students claimed the gesture symbolized the call for a cease-fire in Gaza.

But critics say it is reminiscent of a gesture made by Palestinians who exuberantly showed their blood-soaked hands to a cheering crowd after the lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah in 2000.

"To all who said the red hands weren't an anti-Semitic symbol," wrote Thevenot, "here they are plastered on the Wall of the Righteous at the Shoah Memorial. Anti-Semitism in its most unbridled form. And some parties continue to encourage it."

js/jsi (with AFP)