The French interior minister has announced a 74% rise in anti-Semitic acts across the country over the past year amid a series of incidents in Paris in recent days, including the desecration of a memorial to a murdered Jewish man.
On Monday, municipal workers discovered that a tree planted in memory of Ilan Halimi in a Paris suburb was chopped down, while another was cut into. Halimi, 23, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in an anti-Semitic attack in 2006.
The attack on Halimi’s memorial is one of at least four widely reported acts of anti-Semitism in Paris since Sunday. On Monday, portraits of the late politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, painted on postboxes in the city, were found to have been defaced with swastikas.
Artist Christian Guemy, who created the portraits to commemorate Veil’s burial at the Pantheon in 2018, tweeted a photo of the vandalized postboxes. “Shame on he who heinously disfigured my homage to Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, painted on the letterboxes of the town hall in the 13th district of Paris at the time of her pantheonization, with a swastika,” Guemy wrote. “What cowardice… very shocking.”
The same day, Frédéric Potier of the Interministerial Delegation to Combat Racism, Anti-Semitism and Anti-LGBT Hate (DILCRAH) tweeted a photo of anti-Semitic graffiti on a Paris garage. “When the hatred of Jews combines with the hatred of democracy, the language of the #fascistsphere appears on the walls!” Potier wrote.
On Sunday, Gilles Abecassis, co-founder of French bagel chain Bagelstein, said one of the stores had been graffitied with the word “Juden.” The German word for “Jews” was sprayed in yellow paint on the window of a store on the Ile Saint-Louis, an island in the Seine.
Speaking near the vandalized memorial to Halimi on Monday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner noted the rise in anti-Semitic acts.
“Anti-Semitism continues to attack the spirit. Anti-Semitism hurts,” he said. The same day, Castaner tweeted a video from a remembrance ceremony for Halimi, showing candles being placed by the stump of the tree. “Here we will plant trees that are even bigger, even more beautiful,” he wrote.
At least 11 people have been killed in anti-Semitic violence in France since 2016. In March 2018, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was murdered in her Paris apartment, an act of brutality that compelled thousands to protest in the capital. The previous year, 65-year-old Sarah Halimi was also killed in her apartment in the city and thrown from her balcony in an anti-Semitic attack.
Four people were killed and a further 15 held hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015, in a siege carried out by an associate of the Charlie Hebdo shooters. Three years earlier, three children and one teacher were murdered at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
“We are very far from having finished with anti-Semitism,” Prime Minister Philippe said in November.
A CNN survey of seven European countries conducted in Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, France, Poland, Hungary, and Austria exposed the prevalence of anti-Semitism in 2018. Anti-Semitic stereotypes proved widespread in France, where a quarter of respondents said Jews had too much influence in business and finance.
The study also revealed extensive ignorance about the Holocaust, particularly among younger generations. One in five French people between 18 and 34 said they’d never heard of the Holocaust.