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From the Archive: French anti-Semitism deja vu


Concern about anti-Semitism in France has been mounting in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the head of France’s Jewish umbrella organization, told a New York audience that French Jews are increasingly threatened by far-right parties, disaffected Arab and Muslim youth, and anti-Israel sentiment.

A few days later, a woman yelling anti-Semitic slurs assaulted a Jewish mother and her baby at a Paris bus stop. And a recent survey indicated that almost 75 percent of French Jews were considering emigrating.

In July 1934, A. Herenroth, JTA’s Paris correspondent published an essay in three installments detailing the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in France, a problem that the author said had been relatively dormant since the Dreyfus Affair, when a Jewish major was wrongly convicted of treason.

Herenroth wrote that anti-Semitic newspapers were proliferating and that while German Jewish refugees — who began arriving after Hitler’s rise to power — had initially been welcomed, they were starting to spur resentment.  Numerous French leftists  were accusing the new arrivals of trying to drag France into a war with Germany.

At the end of the second installment, Herenroth asked:

Is it possible after the foregoing to speak of “anti-Semitism in France?” It seems to us that this is premature. There undoubtedly is evident a certain growth of moods favorable to the rise of anti-Semitism, but it is still to early to conclude from this that France will be beaten by that stream of hatred of humanity which passed like such a stormy wave over the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

But by the third installment, Herenroth was already less sanguine, saying that anti-Semitism was rapidly evolving from a “mood” to a “movement,” of “substantial, if not threatening proportions.”

Somewhat prophetically, given that the Nazis would, without too much difficulty, invade France less than six years after the article’s publication, eventually rounding up the country’s Jews for extermination, Herenroth concluded:

French anti-Semitism of the new type is now in the process of birth and its true nature is not yet known to us. The immediate future will reveal this enemy force with which French Jewry will have to contend. 


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