Leaders of French political and cultural life and thousands of ordinary Parisiansreacted to the latest incident of anti-Semitic violence here over the weekend with a mixture of outrage over the act and outpourings of sympathy and solidarity with the Jewish community.
Thousands of demonstrators marched through the center of the city today to protest Friday night’s bombing of the small Rivoli Beaubourg cinema where the fourth International Jewish Film Festival was taking place.
A bomb concealed under a seat in the last row exploded at 9:45 p.m. Of the audience of about 50 in the movie house at the time, 18 were injured by falling plaster or suffered burns. Of three burn victims, two remained hospitalized today, one of them requiring skin grafts. They were not identified but none was on the danger list.
President Francois Mitterrand, who is attending a European summit conference in Brussels, expressed the prevailing sentiment in a cable of “solidarity with the victims and all of France’s Jews.” He called for a prompt and vigorous investigation.
Similar expressions came from government ministers and opposition leaders, deputies and representatives of the entire political spectrum. Even the extreme rightwing National Front, which many French Jews suspect of anti-Semitism, condemned the bombing “without the slightest reservations” and called on police to make every effort to apprehend the perpetrators.
Interior Minister Pierre Joxe, who was one of the first to reach the cinema after the bombing, pledged that the national police will “do all it can” to find the terrorists. Mayor Jacques Chirac of Paris made the same commitment on behalf of the Paris police force.
NO CLUES AS TO NATURE OF THE TERRORISTS
There were no immediate clues, however. Two neo-Nazi groups belatedly claimed responsibility for the bombing in anonymous telephone calls to the French news agency, Agence France Presse. Another caller, in Beirut, told an American news agency the bombing was the work of the “Islamic Jihad” “in retaliation for Israeli military activities in south Lebanon.”
But police tended to discount these claims although known neo-Nazi groups, former Nazi collaborators and Palestinian groups are all possibilities under consideration, police sources said.
Emile Weiss, one of the film festival’s organizers, said today that he had received several threatening calls last week, when the festival opened. He said the caller spoke unaccented French and threatened to “blow up everything including the manager himself.”
There were police at the theater on the opening night of the festival, last Tuesday. But police protection was withdrawn on the following day despite the threats. Police refused to comment or to confirm that there had been threatening calls.
10,000 PEOPLE DEMONSTRATE
A spontaneous demonstration took place yesterday afternoon. Today, close to 10,000 people gathered outside the damaged movie house at the call of the Representative Council of Major French Jewish Organizations (CRIF). Its president, Theo Klein, led them on a march to the memorial monument to the Unknown Jewish Martyrs, only a few hundred yards from the bombing scene.
Among the marchers were people prominent in French film, including actress Simone Signoret and actor Yves Montand, writers and academicians and “Just people who were revolted by what had taken place,” one marcher said.
The bomb exploded during the screening of a West German film, “Eichmann,” a movie about a gestapo leader Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi most directly responsible for deporting millions of Jews to the death camps during World War II.
THIRD SUCH INCIDENT SINCE 1980
It was the third such incident in Paris since 1980, although in terms of casualties, not as serious as the earlier ones. Four people were killed in 1980 when terrorists bombed the Rue Copernic Synagogue during Friday evening services. That incident also triggered a mass march of solidarity through the streets of Paris.
In 1982, six people were killed in a machinegun and grenade attack on Jo Goldenberg’s Restaurant, a Jewish delicatessen on the Rue Des Rosiers, in the old Parisian ghetto district.
The International Jewish Film Festival is a modest event, its rather high-sounding name notwithstanding. It drew small audiences. But the act of violence against it, instead of frightening potential audiences, drew crowds.
FESTIVAL RESUMED AT DIFFERENT THEATER
Less than 24 hours after the bombing, the festival was resumed at a different theater, with “Eichmann” again the featured film. Lining up at the box office for the tickets were Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French President; Minister of Culture Jack Lang; Simone Veil, former President of the Parliament of Europe; Israeli Ambassador Ovadia Soffer; Israel’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs; Roni Milo, who happens to be in Paris on a private visit; and Jacques Mermaz, the 17-year-old son of Louis Mermaz, Speaker of the French National Assembly, who is presently on an official visit to Israel.
Young Mermaz was in the theater when the bomb went off. Today he returned to see “what I had missed before.” Needless to say, the festival was resumed under heavy police protection.
There were many hundreds of well-wishers from all walks of life. A cable of sympathy was received by the Jewish community from Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris — who was born Jewish.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.