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Fire Destroys Synagogue

The fire that destroyed a large synagogue in the north Paris suburb of Drancy last night is believed by local Jewish community leaders to have been the work of arsonists motivated by anti-Semitism. One of the leaders, Michel Besadoux, told reporters today that he had no doubt of this and noted that the synagogue was broken into twice in recent weeks. He also recalled that the office of the Zionist youth group Betar was fire-bombed in Paris over the weekend.

Police investigating the blaze said it was too early to establish for certain that arson was the cause. The Drancy fire occurred at a time of mounting concern among French Jews over the apparent resurgence of neo-Nazism by small groups of right-wing extremists often working with Palestinian sympathizers. The area where the synagogue stood has dread memories for French Jews. It was the site of a notorious transit camp where Jews were rounded up for deportation by the Nazis during World War II.

(In New York today, Philip M. Klutznick, president of the World Jewish Congress, said “The report that the synagogue of Drancy was put to the torch in the small hours of the morning will fill with horror and outrage not only Jews but decent men and women everywhere.”

(Recalling that “more than 61,000 persons were taken from Drancy to death camps, “he said that “the burning of the synagogue is but another in a series of anti-Semitic outrages perpetrated by neo-Nazi elements….Neo-Nazism is a threat not only in France but in many countries today,” Klutznick said and “governments everywhere should recognize neo-Nazism for the evil it is.”)

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