Swastikas were daubed on a memorial to the late Shoah survivor and revered politician Simone Veil in Paris on Monday.
Painted on yellow letterboxes featuring pictures of Veil, the offensive symbols were discovered in the 13th district (arrondissement) of the French capital by artist Christian Guémy, also known as C215.
Guémy was commissioned to paint the portraits last year to commemorate Veil and celebrate her burial at the Pantheon, a rare honour given to France’s greats.
He tweeted pictures of the swastikas daubed on the memorial yesterday, adding: “Shame on the person who disfigured with a swastika my homage to Shoah survivor Simone Veil.
“What cowardice, very shocking”.
Honte à celui qui, abject, a défiguré d'une croix gammée mon hommage à Simone Veil, rescapée de la Shoah, peint l'an dernier sur les boites aux lettres de la mairie du 13e arrondissement de Paris, lors de sa panthéonisation. Quelle lâcheté… très choquant. pic.twitter.com/Cj8Aog292U
— Christian Guémy C215 (@christianguemy) February 11, 2019
The two portraits have since been restored by the artist, who later tweeted in French: “Simone Veil has returned, with her values and grace, stronger than the barbarity of strangers”.
Simone Veil de retour, avec ses valeurs et sa grâce, plus forte que la barbarie des anonymes. pic.twitter.com/ov3ThhIEaf
— Christian Guémy C215 (@christianguemy) February 12, 2019
This comes days after the word “Juden” was spray-painted over the window of a bagel shop in the fourth arrondissement of Paris at the weekend.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Twitter yesterday she would be pressing charges, adding: “Following the defacing of a business Bagelstein this weekend, antisemites have now moved on to the face of Simone Veil. Cowardly and abject.”
However, appearing on FranceInfo this morning, Veil’s son Pierre-François said he “did not think” he would be pressing charges over concerns it would be unlikely to “appease the climate of this country”.
European Jewish Congress president, Dr. Moshe Kantor said: “It is extremely worrying that a Jewish Holocaust survivor, the late Simone Veil, who contributed so much to French society is the target of this hate.
“This defacement targets all Jews and all people of decency. We are delighted that the pictures have been restored, and we hope that the perpetrators of this obscene act are caught and dealt with the full force of the law.
“Unfortunately, this has become part of a pattern of sadly rapidly increasing Antisemitism that needs to be dealt with immediately before it becomes a pandemic of hate against Jews.”
Francis Kalifat, head of the Council Representing Jewish Institutions in France, called for a “national wake up call” to counter antisemitism, adding: “In addition to being a threat to to Jews, antisemitism signals the democratic weakening of our country”.
Veil passed away on June 30 2017 at the age of 89 and was the fourth woman to be honoured at the Pantheon, alongside 72 men.
She was captured by Nazis in 1944 at the age of 16 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau before she was moved to Bergen-Belsen.
She went on to spearhead contraception and abortion legislation in her role as health minister despite facing bitter opposition from her contemporaries.