RIVESALTES, France, June 12 (AFP) - A mural painted by Jewish children at a World War II concentration camp near Perpignan, southern France, has been vandalized, the Independant newspaper reported Saturday.From France 2:
Police at Rivesaltes said no complaint had been filed after the so-called Fresco of Jewish Children was found to have been damaged, apparently with a chisel-like object, but that the incident was being investigated.
A historian discovered the desecration Friday when he visited the site where 4,500 Jews and gypsies were held, later reporting it to the paper. It said the perpetrators had not left a message.
In 1942, a Swiss nurse at the camp, Friedel Reiter, had asked the interned children there to paint a typical Swiss landscape on one of the walls of the infirmary.
Local officials were to pay homage to the children during a ceremony Saturday afternoon.
The association of Sons and Daughters of France's Deported Jews has filed a complaint following the vandalism at Rivesaltes
In a press-release distributed on Sunday, Catherine Vautrin, undersecretary for Integration, expressed her outrage "before the hateful profanation that occurred in Rivesaltes."
[Labor minister] Jean-Louis Borloo claimed he was "disgusted by the series of racist and anti-Semitic acts" in France.
The association, presided over by attorney Serge Klarsfeld, claims that it created the memorial to the 11,000 Jewish children deported from France.
The minister of Labor is determined "to fight against the banalization of these acts" and to "employ all necessary means," with his colleagues, "to prevent and prosecute these intolerable and shameful acts."
Painted in 1942 in the intermediate concentration camp at Rivesaltes (Pyrénées-Orientales) near Perpignan, the "Fresco of Jewish children," was attacked with a chisel.
During the Second World War, 4,500 Jews and gypsies, were confined at this camp. Two-thousand and thirteen were later exterminated at Auschwitz.
Barracks 12 of isle K was assigned to a humanitarian organization, Secours suisse. It served as a residence, infirmary and refectory. On one of the walls of the barracks, a Swiss nurse, Friedel Reiter, had Jewish children among the detainees paint a fresco depicting a bucolic Swiss landscape.
An investigation has been opened following the vandalism, observed at the site by a passing historian. According to the Perpignan newspaper L'Indépendant, no one has claimed responsibility.
The fresco was protected by a fence. The site of the camp, which belongs to the state, is threatening to fall to ruins.
The minister of the Interior, Dominique de Villepin, learned "with consternation" of this development in a place that "marks such painful periods of our history." He expressed his "anger before this latest attack on the memory of the children of the Shoah."