Sunday, February 15, 2015

15-Feb-15: Gravestones in France's Alsace region and the messages they deliver

In the Alsace region, but a different community, the Jewish
cemetery was desecrated in 2004 [Image Source]
From BBC today: In the Alsace region of north-eastern France, near its border with Germany
hundreds of Jewish graves have been desecrated in a cemetery. Images on social media showed the gravestones in Sarre-Union daubed with swastikas and Nazi slogans. On his Twitter feed, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said every effort would be made to catch the perpetrators of an "ignoble and anti-Semitic act, an insult to memory" [BBC]
A French news site quotes the mayor saying the cemetery has some 400 graves and about half have been desecrated. The damage is thought to have taken place on Friday or Saturday. The town is no stranger to this form of hate-based vandalism: In 1998, some 60 headstones in the Sarre-Union cemetery were similarly desecrated and/or knocked to the ground; and in 2001, 54 tombs were similarly wrecked.

Significant communities of Jews have been present in France's Alsace region since at least the 11th century. By the 1870s, its Jewish population peaked at about 35,000 and has been declining since. We can be confident that many French Jews are today taking a good long look around themselves as one outrage after another comes to reinforce the message that France is undergoing permanent change of a kind that perceptive people tend not to ignore.

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