Friday, August 13, 2004

Alsace Hate Watch 2 (updated)

Actually, a week has passed and nothing bad has happened in Alsace. However, there were other desecrations of graves in Yonne, a town in nearby Burgundy, as well as in Lyon.

Dernières Nouvelles D'Alsace is reporting that Deputy Emile Blessig of Saverne (site of the desecration of a Jewish cemetery) will propose that the French national assembly outlaw gatherings by Neo-Nazi organizations, limiting the right to assemble in France. Blessig draws comparisons with terrorism in justifying such measures:
At the international level, terrorism has made democracy its enemy while much closer to us, we help to grow an intolerance that is nothing more than another form of terrorism.
This may be one of the first attempts in France to associate violence at home with terrorism. However, Blessig wants to proceed cautiously--lawyers should carefully craft a law that defines the appropriate limits of assembly :
It is necessary to react to every action, but equally to promote democratic values [in the future].
[Updated 8:22 am:] For once I can reference an English language article: the New York Times' "Thwarted in Germany, Neo Nazis Take Fascism to France" highlights the current problems with hate in Alsace.
... The fascist tendency of some younger Alsatians cannot easily be ascribed to economic deprivation or a sudden influx of immigrants. Unemployment in the region is about 8 percent, several points lower than the national average, and the immigrant population, mostly made up of North African and Turkish workers imported to meet labor shortages after World War II, has grown only incrementally in recent years.

Instead, many people here say history is to blame ...

"There was never a de-Nazification in Alsace because the region was treated as a victim," said Georges Yoram Federmann ...

"There's a lack of vigilance," said Pierre Levy, a local member of France's Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, complaining that there was little local outrage about neo-Nazi sympathies. He worried that French society's tendency to trivialize such incidents could lead to a resurgence of fascism. ...
I think that the Alsatian politicians ought to look at the problem more deeply, at least in a historical sense. Arguably the region was never de-Nazified. But it also did not pass through the Dreyfus Affair with the rest of France. Alsatians were never forced to choose the République over racism. It should also be mentioned that much of Alsace's current Jewish population are not descended from the large communities that existed before WWII--they did not survive the Nazi occupation, as Alsace was directly incorporated into the Third Reich. They were replaced by immigrants from all corners of Europe and North Africa. Alsatians may not see the contemporary Jews of Alsace as French Jews.

[More important:] The article also describes the recent rally of 300 Neo-Nazis in Hipsheim (just south of Strasbourg) at the end of July. An article in Est Republicain ("Les Alsaciens réclament une loi contre les réunions de néonazis") describes the problems that mayors have dealing with gatherings of extremists:
Le maire du village [Hipsheim], Antoine Rudloff, a expliqué après coup qu'il avait été « trompé » par le locataire du terrain et de la salle qui avait évoqué une simple « fête entre copains » lorsqu'il avait fait la réservation au printemps. Aucune infraction n'a été constatée par les gendarmes qui se sont rendus sur place.
« Les élus locaux sont souvent pris au dépourvu : quand ils prennent conscience de la véritable nature de la réunion, il est souvent bien tard pour réagir, surtout si l'on considère la violence et l'agressivité potentielles des skinheads », relève Emile Blessig, député (UMP) du Bas-Rhin.

[Rough translation: The mayor of Hipsheim says he was deceived as to the nature of the gathering when arrangements were made. The gendarmes did not find any infractions when they came to the location.

"The local elected officials are often taken unaware: when they become aware of the true nature of the gathering, it is often too late to react, moreover when one considers the violence and potential aggressiveness of skinheads," reveals Deputy Emile Blessig.]


At 3:12 AM, Blogger Max Hartshorne said...

I am going to Strasbourg this week and will ask around about this. watch for my report on my blog at


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