France sees rash of anti-Christian acts while anti-Semitism rises, officials say

Although the world marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Monday, acts of anti-Semitism increased in France last year by 27 percent, according to the country’s interior minister.

A total of 687 anti-Semitic acts were counted in 2019, compared to 541 the previous year, according to a statement by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

The account by the interior ministry showed that 151 of the acts were of the most severe category, “actions,” meaning attacks on people or their possessions, theft or physical acts. There were 536 threats.

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To mobilize against forces of hate and its banalization, the ministry is creating a network of special investigators around France. It has designated experts on racism and anti-Semitism in gendarmeries and departments, the statement said.

An online platform that would allow investigators to chat with witnesses and victims of hate is being set up, among a series of new measures now in place or in the works, the statement said.

Anti-Christian acts remained stable but highest of all in France, the interior minister said.

Anti-Christian acts were stable in 2019, but the figure was high at 1,052, mainly attacks on goods or property with a religious character.

Acts described as bearing a racist and xenophobic character, mostly threats, more than doubled between 2018 and 2019 — increasing from 496 to 1,142, according to the statement.

“Expressions and acts of hate, whether they target origins or religious beliefs, whether they take the form of physical violence or verbal threats, are an intolerable attack on our common project, the foundations of our social ... pact,” the statement said.

Chief Rabbi Harold Abraham Weill looks at graves desecrated with swastikas at the Jewish cemetery in Westhoffen, near Strasbourg, France, December 4, 2019. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

Chief Rabbi Harold Abraham Weill looks at graves desecrated with swastikas at the Jewish cemetery in Westhoffen, near Strasbourg, France, December 4, 2019. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

World leaders on Thursday denounced the rising threat of anti-Semitism globally and vowed never to forget the lessons of the Holocaust at a solemn ceremony in Israel marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

The World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, the largest-ever summit of its kind, drew more than 45 world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

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He said at the forum: “We need this unity, of Europe, of the international community, because today, in our democracy, anti-Semitism is resurging — violent, brutal, it is here. And with it, its parade of hate and intolerance. With it, racism. Anti-Semitism, I say it here clearly, is not only the problem of Jews. No. It is first and foremost the problem of others. Because each time in our history, anti-Semitism always preceded the weakening of democracy, it translated our inability to accept others. It is always the first form of rejection of the other. And when anti-Semitism appears, all racism spreads. All divisions propagate. Nobody comes out of this winning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.