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French Officials Say Orleans Slander Campaign is Not an Organized Effort

Officials of the French Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior Indicated today that an anti-Semitic whispering campaign that broke out here several weeks ago was the work of “a number of irresponsible and neurotic individuals” rather than an organized slander effort.”That belief was shared by the local district governor. Jacques Graeve, who issued a communique today stating that the anti-Semitic “rash” in Orleans was not caused by an organized bloc but is exclusively the work of “isolated individuals who seem to act secretly and anonymously.”

The two ministries intimated that they have opened an investigation, reports JTA’s Paris correspondent, Edwin Eytan, But the campaign of slander, directed mainly against Jewish-owned shops in the heart of this prosperous city on the Loire, has already done considerable damage. Protests have been registered by prominent citizens and organizations. Jewish and non-Jewish, who likened the situation to that which existed in Nazi Germany before World War II.

The local teachers union has appealed to authorities to find out who was responsible for the campaign. Jewish shopkeepers affected have filed complaints of libel and slander against “third parties unknown.” The anti-Semitic rumors have abated but a spontaneous boycott against several Jewish shops persists.

Authorities have been unable to trace the source of rumors which said that women were lured into the shops, drugged and sold as white slaves to brothels of the Middle East. The shops mentioned are all well known, popular establishments in the city’s main shopping center. Among them are Dorphe’s, Boutique de Sheila, Felix’s and at least five others. The shops are all Jewish-owned but several are managed by non-Jews.

Whoever started the campaign is believed to have gotten the inspiration from a sex-and-crime weekly called Noir et Blanc which carried a story a month ago titled “Kidnapping in Grenoble.” According to the story, a man’s wife disappeared after entering a shop and was never seen again. She had been spirited off to Grenoble on the Italian border to be sold to the Middle East brothels, the story said. The rumors placed the shop in Orleans and identified it as Chez Dorphe. The rumor grew to include a tunnel to Boutique Sheila, a half mile away. Later rumors said the missing wife and two other women were found drugged and bound in the shop’s cellar. A further rumor spread around town that $20,000 in “Jewish gold” had been spent to hush up the affair.

As a result of the rumors, women were advised not to patronize the shops and not to enter them unaccompanied. The city fathers of Orleans said there was no precedent for such a whispering campaign in this city. Most citizens questioned now seem to discount the rumors. But some still say, “where there is smoke there must be fire.”

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