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East German Court Imposes Stiff Sentences on Cemetery Vandals

An East Berlin court has imposed stiff sentences on young, anti-Semitic vandals, further fueling the belief that East Germany is trying to demonstrate good will toward Jewish communities worldwide, and especially in the United States, with whom East Germany wants desperately to improve trade relations.

Five unidentified youths were given prison terms Monday ranging from two-and-a-half to six years. The West German press described the sentencing as extremely severe.

The five were found guilty of desecrating the Jewish cemetery at Prenzlauerberg, where 222 gravestones were overturned.

According to East German press reports, the vandals gathered regularly at the cemetery to display Nazi symbols and discuss fascist ideas.

The East German youth publication, Junge Welt, condemned the desecrations in notably harsh language.

East Berlin is expecting a visit from a World Jewish Congress delegation this month, to discuss possible reparations for Jewish Holocaust victims.

East German leader Erich Honecker has made allusions to possible restitution, in the belief that it will help East Germany receive most-favored-nation trade status with the United States.

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