France announces dedicated government office to combat hate crimes

Interior Minister makes announcement after another Jewish cemetery was attacked last week


France is to create a dedicated office to combat hate crime in response to incidents including the desecration of over a hundred Jewish graves near Strasbourg last week.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said “the republic itself has been desecrated” after 107 headstones were daubed with swastikas in a cemetery overnight on December 3.

“Hatred has struck, there is hatred on our national territory. We will do everything so that the people who have done this are convicted,” he said, according to AFP.

The national bureau would be linked to France’s gendarmerie, the country’s military police force, and be responsible for investigating anti-Muslim and anti-Christian incidents in addition to cases of antisemitism.

Mr Castaner said the new office would coordinate with France’s judiciary and other police forces to ensure “perpetrators of these vile acts are brought to justice”.

Last week’s attack struck the Westerhoffen cemetery, which hosts sepulchres of the families of Karl Marx and France’s former socialist prime minister Leon Blum, who was Jewish.

It was the latest in a series of graffiti incidents targeting Jewish cemeteries in the Alsace region over the past year. In February, 96 tombs were desecrated at a graveyard in Quatzenheim.

Despite rising levels of antisemitism across France, Strasbourg’s grand rabbi Harold Abrahaim Weill said the latest incident would shake Jewish resolve.

“You will never wipe away our memory or our identity, neither with your paint or whatever you use,” he said.

“We are here and we will stay here for a long time.”

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