Strasbourg's Old Synagogue memorial stone hit by 'vandalism'

A woman walks by the memorial stone marking the site of Strasbourg's Old Synagogue.
A woman walks by the memorial stone marking the site of Strasbourg's Old Synagogue.PHOTO: AFP

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) - A memorial marking the site of Strasbourg's Old Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, was apparently vandalised overnight, local officials said Saturday (March 2) - 11 days after a nearby Jewish cemetery was desecrated.

Police have opened a probe, and a source said investigators would consult surveillance video and interview witnesses "to determine the origin of the incident, whether intentional or accidental".

Strasbourg deputy mayor Alain Fontanel told journalists in the eastern French city the incident was an "act of vandalism" that bore "all the signs of anti-Semitism".

Earlier on Facebook, he said it was "very probably, unfortunately, a new act of anti-Semitism in our city".

The region has witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic acts, the latest on Feb 19 when 96 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, north-west of Strasbourg.

Before heading to the memorial for an inspection on Saturday, mayor Roland Ries wrote on Facebook: "Once again, enough is enough."

The site, he underlined, was itself "a response to such repulsive acts, simultaneously symbolising the exactions and horrors of the Nazi regime and the French people's power of resistance," he said.

 
 

The 1.6-tonne memorial stone stands next to the Avenue of the Righteous, dedicated to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, Ries noted.

It has been moved back into place.

The synagogue, which was built in 1898 and was the Strasbourg Jewish community's main place of worship, was ransacked and burnt to the ground by Hitler Youth on Sept 30, 1940.

Fontanel said video surveillance showed that shortly before 7am on Saturday (2pm Singapore time), a car was seen near the heavy monument, and added: "We have to see now if it was this car that committed the act."

Thierry Roos, spokesman for the Israelite Consistory of the Lower Rhine region, told AFP the religious council "is distressed by the damage to this stone... whether it was intentional or not".

The main Islamic mosque in Strasbourg in a statement said the incident had provoked "sadness, disgust, anger and revulsion" among its members.

It quoted the mosque's president Said Aalla as condemning "this new anti-Semitic act with the greatest firmness".

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, which has a seat in Strasbourg, also condemned the damage done, and called for a "stop in the increase of anti-Semitism".

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted: "Shocking images from Strasbourg. Anti Semitic hatred and vandalism are on the rise in France and throughout Europe."

On Dec 11, the day of a deadly militant attack on Strasbourg's Christmas market, 37 Jewish graves and a monument were desecrated in Herrlisheim, north-east of the city.

In February 2015, around 300 graves were vandalised in a Jewish cemetery in nearby Sarre-Union, an act for which five adolescents were given suspended prison terms of eight to 18 months in 2017.