PARIS — Swastikas drawn on portraits of a women’s rights champion and Holocaust survivor in Paris; the word “Juden” (Jews, in German) spray-painted on a bagel bakery; a tree planted in memory of a young Jewish man who was tortured to death, chopped down in a Paris suburb.
A spate of reports in recent days illustrates what the government officially confirmed on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic incidents have risen sharply in France. Such episodes jumped by 74 percent in 2018, to 541, up from 311 in 2017, the interior ministry reported.
“Anti-Semitism is spreading like a poison, like a bile,” the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Monday as he visited the site of the felled tree.
The tree was a memorial to Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man who was kidnapped and tortured to death after being held captive for three weeks by members of a French criminal gang in 2006. The authorities and Jewish institutions were preparing to commemorate the 13th anniversary of Mr. Halimi’s death, which falls on Wednesday, when the tree was found destroyed.
In Paris, a street artist who painted portraits of Simone Veil on mailboxes in the 13th arrondissement found swastikas scrawled across her face on Monday.
Ms. Veil, a Holocaust survivor sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp at age 16, became France’s health minister in the 1970s and championed a law legalizing abortion. A feminist icon and symbol of resilience in the face of the Holocaust, she died in June 2017.
She was interred in the Panthéon, where France’s greatest figures are buried. Soon after, colorful portraits similar to the ones vandalized on Monday flourished across Paris with the words “Merci Simone.”
“Shame on the despicable person who disfigured with a swastika my tribute to Simone Veil,” Christian Guémy, the street artist, wrote on Twitter. He cleaned the paintings on Tuesday and said he would repaint them tirelessly if they were to be vandalized again.
Frédéric Potier, the head of a government body created to fight racism and anti-Semitism, said the increase in the number of anti-Semitic acts could be explained by a resurgence of such messages within far-right circles, especially online.
“Online platforms are a fertile ground for hatred, and it increasingly spills out in the public sphere,” he said.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents fluctuates annually — it rose in 2015 and fell in 2016 and 2017 — but the sharp change last year was a rare spike.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe unveiled a broad plan against anti-Semitism and racism last year that included a coordinated fight against online hatred at the European level.
But critics, including some Jewish groups, called such plans inadequate.
“Anti-Semitism is a signal of the democratic weakening of our country,” Francis Kalifat, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, said in a news release. He denounced a “wall of indifference surrounding anti-Semitism” and called for a “national wake-up.”
French Jews, who make up less than 1 percent of the country’s population, have for years sounded alarms about anti-Semitic acts that have pushed thousands to move or even leave the country. A rabbi in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris told The New York Times last year that Jews had relocated to the area “because they felt threatened” in their former neighborhoods, especially in the suburbs surrounding the city.
The issue drew a surge of attention last year after the killing of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. The killing, in her Paris apartment, shocked the Jewish community and the country as a whole.
Jean Veil, one of Ms. Veil’s two sons, told RTL radio that he wasn’t surprised by the latest anti-Semitic acts, and noted that similar marks had been found on portraits of his mother displayed on the Panthéon’s gates last summer.
“Mother wouldn’t be surprised about what is happening, because she had few illusions on anti-Semitism,” he said.