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A Year Later: Hundreds Attend Memorial for Victims of Rue Copernic Bombing

October 6, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Several hundred persons, including representatives of President Francois Mitterrand and municipal officials, gathered outside the Rue Copernic synagogue yesterday in memory of the four victims of the bomb attack that occurred during Friday evening services on Oct. 3, 1980. If was a solemn occasion at which speakers reminded France and all other European countries to be constantly on the alert for manifestations of revived anti-Semitism.

But the scene outside the Liberal house of worship was a far cry from the outrage that rocked France and much of the rest of the world just one year ago. In the aftermath of the bombing, tens of thousands of people of all faiths and all walks of life marched through the streets of Paris protesting that such an act could have taken place in France, a nation that traditionally abhors racial and religious hatred.

The passions aroused at the time are credited at least in part for the defeat of President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s Gaullist government in the elections last May. But they have long since died down. What remains is a mystery. The massive manhunt that followed the Rue Copernic bombing and the continuing investigations have failed so far to turn up the perpetrators.

This has caused considerable embarrassment to the authorities and to certain groups and individuals, some of them Jewish, who pointed accusing fingers at one or another possible culprits.


Hundreds of police officers assigned to the case have already investigated all possible leads. They include a Cypriot connection, possibly linked to Libya; Spanish neo-Nazis; the French extreme right; and Palestinian terrorist organizations. None yielded any clues and in some instances the investigation backfired against the accusers.

Last year public opinion was convinced that the outlawed neo-fascist Federation for European and National Action (FANE) was responsible for the synagogue attack. A 25-year-old adventurer, Jean-Yves Pellay, who claimed to be Jewish, has since confessed that he made the anonymous telephone calls claiming credit for the bombing on behalf of FANE. He said his motive was to “get the neo-Nazis in trouble with the law.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, many Jews blamed the Giscard regime for being “too soft” on Palestinian terrorists and the extreme right. They believed at the time that a change of government would mean a fundamental change of policy.


But now, one year later, despite claims that “Copernic will never be forgotten,” the episode has faded from public consciousness. The memorial gathering on Rue Copernic received some press coverage. But many newspapers stressed, in the words of the leftist daily, Liberation, that were a similar attack to occur today “it would not cause more of a reaction than any other terrorist attack, such as the Vienna synagogue attack” last month.

Among those present at yesterday’s memorial were many officials who were accused of laxity after the bombing. These included the Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac; former Presidential chief of staff Jean-Francois Wahl; and other former Gaullist officials. Mitterrand was represented by his military aide and by his adviser for Jewish affairs, Jacques Attali. The government’s chief representative was Justice Minister Robert Badinter, who is Jewish.

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