NEW YORK – Antisemitic graffiti was found on more than one hundred gravestones in the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen in eastern France. The case came to light after similar tagging was reported in the commune of Schaffhausen-sur-Zorn, about 20 kilometers away earlier that same day.
The region of Alsace has suffered from a surge in antisemitic and racist graffiti over the past several months. In the department of Bas-Rhin, 96 graves in the Quatzenheim Jewish cemetery, about fifteen kilometers from Westhoffen, were stained with antisemitic tags on the 19th of February. Additional gravestones were vandalized in Herrlisheim, north-east of Strasbourg, on December 11, 2018.
In mid-April, racist and antisemitic tags were discovered on the walls of the town hall of Dieffenthal (Bas-Rhin). A few days later, swastikas and insults were found on the facade of an elected official’s home in Schiltigheim, near Strasbourg. Antisemitic writings were also discovered in early March in front of a school in Strasbourg and swastikas were painted on the walls of an old synagogue in Mommenheim. Across the region, a number of city halls and government buildings have also seen hateful messages scrawled across their exteriors.
Francis Kalifat, president of WJC’s French affiliate the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (Crif), Tweeted on Tuesday that he was, “Deeply shocked by the discovery of antisemitic tags on more than 100 graves in the Westhoffen Jewish Cemetery. This cowardly act is a terrible expression of daily anti-Semitism. The perpetrators must be punished in accordance with the gravity of their act.”
Profondément choqué par la découverte de tags antisémites sur plus de 100 tombes dans le cimetière juif de Westhoffen. Cet acte lâche est une expression terrible de l'antisémitisme qui sévit chaque jour. Les auteurs doivent être punis à la hauteur de la gravité de leur acte.— Francis Kalifat (@FrancisKalifat) December 3, 2019
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also responded in kind, calling the acts “repugnant” and “an insult to the republic.” He vowed a proper investigation and response by relevant law enforcement agencies.
Ces actes abjects et répugnants sont une injure aux valeurs de notre République : tout est mis en œuvre pour qu’ils ne restent pas impunis.— Christophe Castaner (@CCastaner) December 3, 2019
Nos services de @Gendarmerie sont mobilisés pour identifier et interpeller leurs auteurs. https://t.co/6zuACeWZxE
Upon visiting the Westhoffen cemetery the next day, Castaner announced the establishment of a special unit within the country’s Gendarmerie to combat hate crimes, and coordinate responses to attacks on freedom of thought and religion.