Swastikas and racist messages attacking Jewish and Romani people were discovered at the Anne Frank nursery school in an eastern suburb of Paris, Montreuil. French officials say the move is "despicable" and vow “severe punishment” for the perpetrators.
The Nazi symbols and stars of David, accompanied by slogans of “Juden verboten” (Jews forbidden) and “Sales juifs et Roms” (Filthy Jewish and Romani people), were found painted on the front gate and mailbox of the Anne Frank school in Montreuil, a neighborhood in the Seine-Saint-Denis region of Paris. Other graffiti called for the extermination of Jews.
The nursery, which is attended by over 100 children between three and six years old, is named after Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who wrote a famous World War II diary before being killed in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
The act of vandalism was probably carried out over Christmas Eve, but the perpetrators have not yet been identified, Leparisien writes. Former headteacher Juliette Timsit arrived on the scene and took photos, which were widely circulated on social media.
“I woke up to see this on my beautiful little quiet school in my beautiful quiet neighborhood,” she wrote on Facebook. “It makes me cry.”
The hateful act has been vigorously condemned by the authorities. “The inscriptions on Montreuil’s Anne Frank School are despicable. These actions will not remain unpunished,” French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem posted on Twitter.
Patrice Bessac, the mayor of Montreuil, also tweeted to “strongly condemn the racist and anti-Semitic inscriptions” found on the nursery.
And in an interview with AFP, deputy mayor Gaylord de Chequer said: “Such comments should not exist in Montreuil, which is a quiet and peaceful town.” A criminal investigation has been launched, and municipal workers came early on Monday to paint over the graffiti.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, with up to 600,000 people, The Times of Israel writes. Yet, the outlet notes that according to the latest figures by the Israeli authorities, some 8,000 moved back to Israel in 2015 alone due to anti-Semitism.
According to a report by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, France had the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, ahead of Britain, Germany and the US.
Some of these incidents are thought likely connected to tensions with France’s Muslim population, such as during the January 2015 Paris attacks when an Islamiс jihadist gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, stormed into a kosher supermarket in Paris and killed four people.
However, the incident also revealed another side of the coin, as a Muslim employee of the shop, Lassana Bathily, helped over a dozen people flee to safety from the attacker.