PARIS – A gang of young men attacked a woman riding a suburban train with her infant, cutting her hair and drawing swastikas on her stomach. Other passengers watched but did nothing, police reported
French politicians issued denunciations Sunday as news of the Friday morning attack spread through the nation.
Police said the gang of six set upon the 23-year-old woman on a suburban train north of Paris and grabbed her backpack where they found identity papers that showed an address in the capital's well-to-do 16th district. "There are only Jews in the 16th," one of the group of attackers said.
The young woman, who was not identified, was not Jewish and no longer lived in the district, police said.
The gang then pushed her and cut her hair "to keep a souvenir," police said. The attackers opened her shirt, reportedly with a knife, before drawing swastikas on her stomach with a marking pen. The 13-month-old infant fell from its stroller in the melee. Neither the mother nor infant was seriously hurt, police said.
Police described the gang as ages 15 to 20 and said some appeared to be of Muslim North African origin.
The attack occurred a day after President Jacques Chirac (search) denounced mounting racial intolerance in France, calling for drastic change "at the risk of indifference and passivity."
According to the police account, none of the passengers on the train came to the woman's rescue.
Chirac denounced Friday's "shameful act" and Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) ordered police to find the culprits "as quickly as possible."
Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, said that, in the face of rising anti-Semitism (search), government decisions are no longer sufficient.
"Each one of us must truly feel threatened by this phenomenon," Cukierman said on France-Info radio. "This is not a problem of Jews but of France."
On Thursday, a day before the attack, Chirac traveled to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a small town that sheltered some 5,000 Jews from Nazi occupiers during World War II.
"I ask (the French) to remind their children of the mortal danger of fanaticism, of exclusion, of cowardliness and resignation to extremism," he said.
Anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise in France over the past few years, but recently have spiked, with 135 registered in the first half of this year -- more than the total reports last year. The rise in anti-Semitic acts has been accompanied by racist acts against Muslims.