“Something very worrying is happening in France.”

Writing Summer of Long Knives meant spending a lot of time immersed in the crimes of the Nazi regime. It would be pleasant to imagine that those crimes, and the mindset behind them, are museum pieces now, to be studied with the same puzzlement we would a Canopic jar, but recent articles about the rise of racist violence in Western Europe generally, and in France particularly, shows that the sickness is as virulent as ever:

From the Washington Post:

In Western Europe, no nation has seen the climate for Jews deteriorate more than France.

Anti-Semitism has ebbed and flowed here and throughout the region since the end of World War II, with outbreaks of violence and international terrorism — particularly in the 1980s and early 2000s — often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jewish leaders here are now warning of a recent and fundamental shift tied to a spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism.

This month, authorities arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national, and charged him with the May killings of four people inside a Jewish museum in Brussels. The attack was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in Western Europe since a gunman killed seven people, including three children at a Jewish day school, in Toulouse in 2012. Nemmouche allegedly launched his attack after a tour of duty with rebels in Syria, prompting fears of additional violence to come as more of the hundreds of French nationals fighting there make their way home.

In a country that is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, the first three months of the year saw reported acts of anti-Semitic violence in France skyrocket to 140 incidents, a 40 percent increase from the same period last year. This month, two young Jewish men were severely beaten on their way to synagogue in an eastern suburb of Paris.

Near the city’s Montmartre district, home to the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a woman verbally accosted a Jewish mother before rattling the carriage of her 6-month-old child and shouting, “dirty Jewess . . . you Jews have too many children,” according to a report filed by France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, not far from the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux, stars of David were recently spray-painted on the homes of Jews.

And, as it was seventy years ago, Jews aren’t the only victims. They’re after the Roma again as well (From the Toronto Star):

A vigilante attack against a Roma teenager raised pressure on the French government Tuesday for its policies toward the ethnic minority even as the president condemned the “unspeakable and unjustifiable” violence that left the boy bleeding and unconscious in a grocery cart by the side of a highway.

Anti-discrimination groups say violence in France is rising against Roma, also known as Gypsies, who come primarily from Eastern Europe and are often blamed for petty crime.

Many live in makeshift camps on the sides of highways or in vacant lots, lacking running water or electricity. Without regular documentation of their residence, they have a hard time enrolling children into school, applying for subsidized housing, getting national health care or finding permanent work.

Several dozen Roma families in the boy’s makeshift camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, a grim northern suburb of Paris, cleared out Tuesday, abandoning what was already one of the poorest areas in France.

“The motive of this lynching, it was vengeance,” prosecutor Sylvie Moisson told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, saying the teen’s condition remained life-threatening. “To practically condemn him to death is barbaric.”

Police say about a dozen young people went into the Roma camp Friday after a series of burglaries in the area. They seized the boy, who is about 16, and took him to the City of Poets, as the local housing project is known. There, police say, he was beaten unconscious, stuffed into a shopping cart and wheeled to the roadside.

Luc Poignant, a police union official, told LCI television that doctors put the young man into a medically induced coma “because he was in so much pain.”

France, I realize that austerity sucks, that economic stagnation and recession tends to bring out the asshole in everybody, and that those assholes would rather hunt scapegoats than figure out a way to end austerity. (This is one of many reasons why smart economic policy matters.) But you guys lived next door to this once, and you know how it went for your neighbors (and, eventually, for you). You should know that any state in which its possible for two of its citizens to have this conversation is one that should be deeply ashamed of itself (from the same WaPo article):

“I walked into my kosher sandwich shop the other day and the owner asked me, ‘Is it time to leave? Are we Nazi Germany yet?’ ” said Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based international director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We’ve got the National Front in first place. We’ve got Dieudonné, spreading his hate. So I told him, ‘Well, do you really want to be the last to go?’ ”

3 thoughts on ““Something very worrying is happening in France.”

  1. I have been worried all along about the fascist and anti-Semite developments in Europe. Not only this. I keep running into people on Goodreads who are either die-hard Nazis or brain-amputated (probably both).

    When I joined Goodreads, it was to build an author profile for my books. These books are still not published. Part of the reason for this is that I, meanwhile, spend about half of my time on Goodreads battling thinly camouflaged diehard Nazis.

    If decent people had more spoken up against Hitler and the Nazis during the 1920s, the Third Reich, WWII, and the Holocaust might never have happened. So I consider it my duty to speak up and do my part of “Wehret den Anfaengen! (Nip things in the bud!), as you are doing, Jim, with posts like the above.


    1. Thanks. The danger I see in Europe now isn’t just that parties like the FN, UKIP, and Golden Dawn exist, or that they shout their bigotries into the headlines, but that mainstream politicians in Europe have so badly discredited themselves that ordinary people start seeing these extremists as a reasonable alternative. Good people need to speak out, but responsible policy makers also need to make sure that their institutions are addressing the economic anxieties that expand the audience for racist demagogues.


  2. Passing it on. Thanks for having the chutzpah to bring it out. Religious beliefs are being ignored and trampled. Boundrys are ignored. Both physical and spiritual. God love a man who speaks out when he sees wrong. Bless you for being that kind of man Mr Snowden. God bless your son in his convictions too. You did a good job teaching him to stand by his heart. Once again, thank you!


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