25 Headstones Smashed, Defaced in Old Jewish Cemetery in England

British Jewry has reacted with shock and anger over one of the worst incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in years.

As security precautions were tightened at Jewish institutions all over the country, police searched for the perpetrators of what appears to have been a daylight assault on the oldest Jewish cemetery in the northern city of Leeds.

About 25 headstones were smashed and others were defaced with red spray-painted slogans such as “Kill the Jews,” “Jews die” and “Adolf Hitler.”

The incident was larger in scale than the attack on the Edmonton Jewish Federation Cemetery in northern London in May, and much more sophisticated.

Security officials noted that the graves of some people who died in 1938 were daubed with the words “Crystal Night ’90,” an apparent reference to Kristallnacht, the first organized, state-run pogrom in Nazi Germany, which occurred Nov. 9-10, 1938.

“These graves were carefully picked out, so we believe the vandals were working in daylight and knew what they were doing,” one official said.

“We feel shock and horror at this incident, which extends hatred to the dead as well as the living,” said Hayim Pinner, secretary-general of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Richard Manning, chairman of the Leeds Representative Council, described the attack as “vile and dastardly,” and urged citizens to keep “a careful watch for anything suspicious and immediately alert the authorities.”

Manning suggested the incident could have been a copycat of the desecration of the ancient Jewish cemetery in Carpentras in southern France during the night of May 9-10, an outrage that captured international attention.

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