“If the burning of Notre-Dame Cathedral would have been arson, would the public accept that the arsonist be charged only with ‘causing damage to property’?”

Paris, 15 October 2020 

Last week, Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, commended the Mayor of Paris, the French Interior Minister and the police for its rapid arrest of the person who painted swastikas along the fashionable rue de Rivoli.

He had also then expressed the hope that the judiciary will act similarly on this obvious hate crime, and not – as has recently happened in other hate crime cases – exonerate the perpetrator on psychiatric or “under the influence of alcohol or narcotics” grounds.

Samuels had evoked the eerie sight of red swastika flags in the same place during the Nazi occupation of Paris, during which over 70,000 Jews were sent to death camps on the command of SS and Gestapo officers based along that same street.

The 31-year old offender will be charged with “causing damage to property” and spared the higher penalty for “a crime aggravated by racial or religious hatred.”

“This logic could have been addressed to the burning down of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, had it been an act of arson. Under such conditions, would the public have accepted the arsonist being charged only with ‘causing damage to property’?” argued Samuels.

“We now hope that the French public will support Jewish outrage and that the Prosecutor learn a little history of the Nazi swastika and the complicity of French collaborationism,” concluded the Centre.

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