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Kristallnacht: fears grow in France over anti-semetic violence

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Kristallnacht: fears grow in France over anti-semetic violence

Kristallnacht: fears grow in France over anti-semetic violence
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France has the largest Jewish community in Europe - around 550,000 people.

Increasingly, however, many say they no longer feel safe in their country.

The Pinto family chose to move away from Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb.

Last year, three men locked them up for several hours in their home. They were "targeted" because of their religion.

"They told us, you are Jews, so you have money,'' says Roger Pinto.

"They tied up my son, and they kicked my wife in the ribs. I was knocked out,'' he says.

While the suspects are in jail, the trauma remains.

Pinto adds, "They tied up the three of us in our room, they sat us on the bed and told us not to move. "If you move, we'll kill you", they said. When they saw that they did not impress us, they took out a very big screwdriver. And that's where it got serious, because they put the screwdriver like that (under his throat)."

Both synagogues and Jewish schools are heavily protected because of fears of terrorism.

When it was founded nearly 40 years ago, one Jewish school in Paris' XIIe district vowed to remain open to society.

But the school's head teacher Henri Cohen Solal says the situation has steadily deteriorated.

"We had a period when we had eight armed soldiers living with us (the soldiers slept in the school for a year). For the children it's always a question of, why do I, as a Jewish child, need to have soldiers in my school ?"

While the soldiers have left, they have been replaced by a guard, the police, and a group of parents.

"Yes, the families feel sufficiently safe. But this security comes at the cost of us retreating from the outside world," Cohen Solal says.

The number of anti semitic incidents in France exploded at the turn of this century. The increase is often attributed to the political situation in the Middle East.

"We had fallen below 50 (anti semitic incidents per year) during the mid-1990s, but there was a spectacular rise in such incidents by 2000 after the second intifada. At that point we saw more than 900 anti semitic acts. After that, we saw a direct correlation between the number of incidents and the major interventions by the Israeli army in the Palestinian territories,'' says Nonna Mayer, Head of Research from France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Very often, we do not precisely know the profile of these perpetrators, but we know that they are rather young men, sometimes they're children of immigrants - whereas before it was mostly the extreme right which carried out these type of attacks - because of resentment against a community they see as privileged," Mayer adds.

It is estimated some 3000 Jews leave France each year, many out of fear. Most go to Israel.