On last Friday in the middle of the day at Place Homme De Fer, the main tram interchange, in the centre of Strasbourg two men stabbed a Jewish man twice. The stabbed man was taken to hospital where he later died. The Police said that one of the assailants was the main aggressor and that he had psychological problems and that he claimed that everything that had gone wrong with his life was “the fault of the Jews”.
The picture (courtesy of Direct Strasbourg) shows around 300 people who gathered at the new Synagogue in solidarity against anti-Semitic aggression. As well as the ‘Grand Rabbin de Strasbourg’, there was the Mayor of Strasbourg and a representative of the Prefect of the region and the President of the organisation representing Jewish institutions in France. I was sorry I did not know about the gathering as I would have liked to be there to show my solidarity.
The ‘Peace Synagogue’ was built in 1958 to replace the previous one which was razed to the ground in 1940s by the Nazis. A monument in front of the shopping centre ‘Place des Halles’ indicates the site of the previous Synagogue and the tram stop for the centre is also called Ancienne Synagogue. There are details of the Jewish history of Strasbourg here.
The title for this piece comes from a quote attributed to Hitler when he was planning the final solution against the Jewish people. His argument was that if no-one remembered what happened to the Armenians, who would remember the Jews?
I do. April 25 is the memorial day for the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenian people in 1915 when up to 2 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks. I was present at the Strasbourg memorial this year. The event coincided with the start of one of the four sessions a year of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe so the leader of the Armenian delegation was able to be present with us. The Armenian representative in Strasbourg spoke and said that he hoped he would be joined by the Turkish representative at the celebration next year – I’m not holding my breath.
France has one of the largest populations of Armenian diaspora as a consequence of the genocide, most famously represented by Charles Aznavor, so there was a good turn out on the day as can be seen from the photo, which also includes many Armenian flags.
The Depute for Strasbourg, Armand Jung, was represented as were many parts of Strasbourg civil society including the different religions. Poems by Armenian poets were read out in Armenian, French and Alsatian. Armenian songs were also sung before people headed off to an Armenian Orthodox Church service Armenia being the first Christian state and that being one reason why the Ottomans wanted to see the people wiped out. Two sets of flowers were laid at the foot of the ‘Monument to the Fallen’ (as seen in the photo), inaugurated by French President Albert Lebrun symbolising the painful experiences of Alsace with a distraught mother bearing on her knees her two sons, who fought on different sides, and are now on the point of death. One faces towards France and the other towards Germany and join their hands as ‘an ultimate expression of rediscovered fraternity.’