Graffiti declaring “Juden!” — the German word for “Jews” — was discovered early on Saturday morning on the window of a Jewish-owned bakery in Paris, hours before 31 supporters of the populist “Yellow Vest” protest movement were arrested in violent clashes with police in the French capital.
Staff at a branch of the bakery chain “Bagelstein” in the fashionable 4th arrondisement of Paris arrived for work to be confronted with the word “Juden!” spray-painted in large yellow letters under the store’s logo.
The vandalism was clearly meant to provoke associations with the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany that began with economic boycotts and discriminatory legislation in the 1930s, culminating in the Holocaust. Nazi Party street thugs would mark out Jewish-owned stores by painting the words “Juden” or “Jude” on their entrances. The word also featured in popular Nazi slogans of the time, such as “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (“Do not buy from Jews!”) and “Die Juden sind unser Unglück!” (“The Jews are our misfortune!”)
L’antisémitisme, canal historique. Paris, 2019. Berlin, 1938. pic.twitter.com/f0iPw7herH
— LICRA (@_LICRA_) February 9, 2019
The Paris prosecutor’s office said the incident was being treated as incitement to racial hatred. The management of the Bagelstein chain had filed a complaint with police after the graffiti was found, co-owner Gilles Abecassis told the AFP news agency on Sunday. Abecassis said that while he and his colleagues had been “shocked” by what took place, they were heartened by the “thousands of messages of support” received from around the world.
French broadcaster RMC meanwhile reported on Monday that a different branch of the Bagelstein chain was also targeted with antisemitic graffiti last week. The words “La pourriture juive se repand” — “Jewish rot is spreading” — had been written in black magic marker on the storefront.
Selon nos informations dans la nuit de mardi à mercredi dernier, un autre tag a été fait sur la vitrine d’un @Mrbagelstein de Paris : "La pourriture juive se répand". https://t.co/zvwij5dZcz#BourdinDirect pic.twitter.com/ua0DZs6FqJ
— RMC (@RMCinfo) February 11, 2019
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner expressed disgust at the antisemitic vandalism, vowing that the authorities would do everything to apprehend the offender.
No clear link has been established between Saturday’s “Yellow Vest” demonstrations and the vandalism. Suspicions were raised as a result of several antisemitic incidents involving supporters of the movement, including the spectacle ten days ago of a protester urinating on the wall of the Great Synagogue in Strasbourg while Shabbat services were taking place inside.
Originally launched to protest a now-abandoned fuel tax imposed by the French authorities, the “Yellow Vests” have evolved over the last three months into a street-based opposition to the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, providing a political home for both far-left and far-right activists. Critics of the movement point out that the number of people attending the protests has declined each week since they began, from a peak of 282,000 in November to just 51,000 last weekend.