The French city of Strasbourg sits alongside the Rhine River on the border of France and Germany. During various eras it has been either part of Germany or part of France, but is currently part of France. As you might expect, its culture is a combination of French and German. And I can tell you from personal experience that the best French beer is brewed in Strasbourg (Kronenbourg 1664). Because of its important location and history, Strasbourg is also the home of the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights), and this makes this weekend’s news all the more disappointing.
On Christmas Eve, right wing vandals painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the front of the house of the local president of LICRA, an old organization in France that fights racism and anti-Semitism. The press release from LICRA today included these words: “The president of LICRA Strasbourg, Philémon Lequeux, was again the target of anti-semites in his residence during the night of Friday to Saturday, as has happened once before at the end of November and as happened in the past to his predecessor Raphaël Nisand.” Television station France 3 reported on their website today that the graffiti included the symbol “d’une croix entourée d’un cercle, le symbole du GUD”. The cross in a circle is the logo of the Union Defense Group, an extreme right wing racist group.
These attacks are not limited to the LICRA presidents. Earlier this year Jewish and Muslim cemeteries were vandalized in separate events. The national president of LICRA, Alain Jakubowicz, has demanded that the activity of these extreme right wing groups must be stopped immediately. “Their activity has been tolerated in this region for too long.”
Both the major political parties, the PS (parti socialiste) and the ruling UMP (union for a popular movement) strongly denounced the vandalism. But it remains to be seen if anything will be done.
(The organization LICRA has an interesting history. It was founded in 1929 as a result of the trial of Samuel Schwartzbard, a French veteran of WWI, who murdered in plain sight Russian General Petlioura, who was living as a refugee in Paris since the war. Petlioura had been an organizer of pogroms in Russia, and Schwartzbard wanted to avenge the murders of his brethren and send a message to the Russians regarding treatment of Jews. A great trial ensued, with much publicity and grandstanding, and Schwartzbard was acquitted!)