Vandals hit memorial stone at Strasbourg’s Old Synagogue

A memorial stone marking the site of Strasbourg's Old Synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, was vandalised overnight, leaders of the eastern French city said Saturday.

Vandals hit memorial stone at Strasbourg's Old Synagogue
Photo: AFP

“Once again, enough is enough,” Mayor Roland Ries wrote on his Facebook page before heading to the site for an inspection.

“The site is itself a response to whoever did this repulsive act because it symbolises both the exactions and horrors of the Nazi regime and the French people's power of resistance,” he added.

The stone lies next to the Avenue of the Righteous, dedicated to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, Ries noted.

“A new incident of anti-Semitism in our town,” deputy mayor Alain Fontanel added on Twitter, posting a picture of a large black marble slab that had been knocked off its plinth.

“Quai Kleber synagogue was burnt down by the Nazis nearly 80 years ago. The memorial stone which marked this tragedy was vandalised overnight.”

The town hall was working with the police to track down those responsible, Fontanel said.

The synagogue, which was the Jewish community's main place of worship in the city, was ransacked and burnt to the ground by Hitler Youth on September 30, 1940.

“Sadly, history repeats itself,” Fontanel wrote on his Facebook page.

The region was already shaken on February 19th when 96 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, northwest of Strasbourg.

“There is no doubt this was an intentional act,” Thierry Roos, spokesman for the Israelite Consistory of the Lower Rhine region, was quoted as saying by local newspaper Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace.

“They wanted to erase the memory of the synagogue on quai Kleber by destroying it twice,” Roos said.

A statement issued by the regional prefecture said that “anti-Semitism strikes at values of the Republic shared by all French citizens. No display of intolerance must threaten our ability to live together.”

READ ALSO: 'We've been used to remaining silent': How social media has fuelled anti-Semitism in France

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French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.