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3 Years After Cemetery Vandalism, No Perpetrators Have Been Found

Three years after the particularly savage desecration of the Jewish cemetery of Carpentras, the perpetrators are still at large. And there is now concern that the case may never be solved.

Despite widespread outrage over the vandalism that elicited large protest marches, no one has been fingered in the May 10, 1990 crime, in which 34 tombstones were toppled or broken and the corpse of a recently buried man was exhumed and brutally defiled.

Skinheads, political militants, Satanic cult adherents and all other manner of suspects with varied affiliations have since been interrogated, with no result.

In spite of some 100 investigators put on the trail of the vandals, and the more than 800 people interviewed, no clue was ever found.

At the time, then Interior Minister Pierre Joxe denounced the perpetrators as being tied to France’s extreme-right wing, pointing the finger at Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front.

Le Pen angrily denied the charge. But political commentators blamed his group for the “sick racist climate” that led to the desecration.

Outrage over the crime triggered protests by hundreds of thousands of French people, including President Francois Mitterrand and then Prime Minister Michel Rocard.

But the crime also spurred copycat vandalism in several European nations. And in France, a history teacher was called a dirty Jew and beaten by masked men for having discussed the incident in her class.

INVESTIGATORS RE-ENACT THE CRIME

Last week, Sylvie Motte, the judge in charge of the criminal investigation, conducted an on-site re-enactment of the desecration.

On the evening of May 6, with the help of a large police contingent, the ancient Jewish cemetery in the southern French town was sealed off.

Under a full moon, exactly as it was three years ago, four police officers impersonated the desecrators and exhumed from a prepared grave a coffin loaded with lead.

Police technicians measured the resulting noise to try to gauge whether the cemetery’s closest neighbor, a Catholic boarding school for girls, could possibly have heard anything on the night of the wild vandalism.

Observers have attributed the difficulty of the investigation to a fundamental mistake made at the time: Hundreds of reporters and curious onlookers were allowed inside the cemetery before the police forensics department was able to gather necessary information.

Other critics say the failure to come up with any real lead was due to politicization of the investigation. The police were instructed to look closely in the direction indicated by Joxe, toward the extreme-right wing, instead of leading an objective investigation.

Judge Motte has summoned a local representative of the National Front to appear in her chambers Tuesday.

Fernand Teboul, who happens to be Jewish, is a town counselor of I’Isle-sur-Sorgue, a small city close to Carpentras.

Teboul declared several months ago that the culprits were known to the authorities, but that those authorities were not interested in revealing their names.

Teboul said he knew nothing more than anyone else and that he did not understand why the judge had summoned him.

But a publication tied to the National Front published a chilling story over a year ago saying that the desecration was committed by Jews.

According to the publication, Orthodox Jews were outraged by the fact that Felix Germon, a non-practicing Jew married to a gentile, had been buried in the Jewish cemetery. The publication alleges that those Orthodox Jews decided to exhume his body.

The corpse of the 81-year-old Germon, who had been interred two weeks earlier, was the one exhumed during the Carpentras desecration. The vanadals placed an iron umbrella handle between the cadaver’s thighs and put a Star of David, taken from a nearby grave, on the belly.

But the story alleging Orthodox involvement was dismissed as total nonsense by local Jewish authorities.

Meanwhile, Germon’s widow has hailed the judge’s decision to re-enact the crime. She said she wants to know the truth and that she is not prepared to pardon the culprits.

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