PARIS (Sep. 28)
A neo-Nazi group claimed credit for this morning’s machinegun attack on a synagogue here, the fifth armed assault on Jewish institutions in Paris in 48 hours. In predawn attacks Friday, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets into the entrance of the Great Synagogue, a Jewish-run children’s home, a memorial monument to Jews deported by the Nazis and the entrance to the Lucien Hirsh School.
No casualties were reported in any of the incidents. But the French Jewish community is enraged and President Valery Giscard d’Estaing has expressed his “indignation.” On Friday night, police swooped down on the offices of the recently outlawed Federation of European Nationalist Action (FANE) and arrested six persons. Two were still in custody today, including FANE leader Marc Fredriksen who was tried and convicted earlier this month for inciting race hatred and is awaiting sentence.
Anonymous telephone calls to French news media Friday and today said the attacks were the work of the European Nationalist Fasces (FNE), a neo-Nazi organization set up by Fredriksen after FANE was banned on orders of the Interior Ministry. He faces another court hearing next, month.
PROLIFERATION OF ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS
The armed attacks over the weekend capped a series of incidents in Paris and other parts of France, including the proliferation of anti-Semitic leaflets and daubings on the walls of Jewish-owned buildings and street clashes between Jewish activists and neo-Nazis.
The most violent of these occurred last week outside the courthouse during Fredriksen’s trial. Two days later, a shop owned by Solomon Milgrom, a Jewish activist, was the forget of an attack. Anti-Semitic slogans were smeared on the walls of the Hirsh School three days before the machinegun attack.
Jewish shopkeepers, concerned by the way of anti-Semitic attacks, organized a demonstration attended by several political leaders and they took-the opportunity to announce that they would set up defense groups to prevent such crimes.
DEMANDS FOR AUTHORITIES TO ACT
The Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France (CRIF) published a communique denouncing the attacks and said through its president, Alain de Rothschild, that “anti-Semitic elements are trying to aim at the vital sectors of our community. We demand that the authorities deal firmly with those who are responsible for the attacks. We believe that they constitute minority groups which are seeking to destabilize democratic life. Above all, it is essential not to fall into the trap of provocation.”
Fredriksen and his associates are believed to be waging a deliberate campaign of terror against French Jews to force them to react. According to this view, counter-violence by Jews is expected to stir anti-Semitic feelings in the population since the right wing extremists would utilize the counter-attacks to convince the population that Jews are responsible for France’s present economic difficulties.
For the first time, meanwhile, Giscard d’Estaing intervened by saying that the attacks were particularly despicable as they had been aimed at schools. The Mayor of Paris, former Premier Jacques Chirac, said everything should be done to track down those responsible for the attack and punished. He added that he asked the police to protect all Jewish schools and institutions in Paris.
ROLE OF POLICE CRITICIZED
Several Jewish personalities, however, expressed regret that French police have not gone after the neo-Nazis. Andre Wormser, head of CRIF’s Commission an anti-Semitism, stressed that it is “necessary to dismantle” the neo-Nazi groups but that the Jewish community should refrain from using violence.
French police, he said, “have not always done their job as they should. For three years, three neo-Nazi groups have been active in France: the Joachim Peiper group, the French Front Against Jewish Dictatorship, and the Charles Martel group. All the members of these groups are similar to the pro-Nazi collaborators during the war.” He added that police must carry out their investigations in earnest. It is hard to believe that it is impossible for them to dismantle these groups.”
Jewish leaders said it was urgent to dissolve all neo-Nazi groups and prevent their leaders from reconstituting their organizations under another name, which a loophole in French laws enables them to do.
French police said they faced difficulties in dismantling neo-Nazi organizations because they were set up as clandestine cells. They added that they could only act against known pro-Nazis but that it was hard to track down the anonymous sympathizers.
Critics of the French police have nevertheless noted that many police are rightwing sympathizers. They recalled that during the war it was French police, not the Germans, who rounded up Jews who were eventually sent to Nazi death camps. After the liberation of France in 1944, the police department was not purged entirely of its former collaborationists and for years neo-Nazi elements lived in peace.
It was recalled that during the war some 50,000 Frenchmen enrolled in the militia corps which carried out even more brutal actions against the population than the Germans. When the war ended less than 2000 of these men faced French tribunals and only 500 were executed for their crimes.