Chirac immeidately said that anti-Semitism is really, really against the rules; or rather that it is "contrary to the all the values, principles and ideas of the Republic." Prime minister Raffarin wrote to a Jewish group to express the embarrassment, awkwardness and difficulty he feels in having to denounce something that is now so routine, common and banal the country he represents. Interior minister Dominique de Villepin cancelled his appointments and headed to the scene of the crimes — which he has the luxury of doing, now that he's no longer required to look the other way before such acts since he is no longer cozying up to anti-Semitic Arab regimes as minister of Foreign Affairs.
Herrlisheim had a strong Jewish community in 1784 (389 people) but all that remains today is the cemetery. Situated in the middle of a vinyard, it has been sacked and defaced several times since the Holocaust but each time it has been restored and it requires constant attention and continual restoration, given its age. Some of the tombs and stelas have crumbled and most are made from a porous and soft stone which will be difficult to clean. For more information about Alsatian Jews, you can visit this site.
According to local prosecutor Pascal Schultz, the "investigation is making good progress," reports the AFP. "There appear to have been several writers," he said, adding that graphologists would be assigned to determine their number scientifically. Other experts will be appointed to determine the kind of paint used and origin of the two German flags found on two of the cemetery's stela. The flags bore slogans exalting the Nazi regime. Schultz says the investigation may require collaboration with German police.
The legalese for the crime is "defacement of a place of burial aggravated due to membership in an ethnic group, religion or race" and is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of €45,000. This is in addition to charges for incitation to racial hatred.