French Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Worst Incident in Three Years

Yet another Jewish cemetery in France has been desecrated, in the worst incident of its kind in three years.

The latest incident, in which 94 of 120 Jewish graves were vandalized at a cemetery in the south-central town of Haut-Vernet, brought out some 300 people for a silent protest demonstration Sunday morning.

The desecration of the Jewish part of the cemetery, which is outside the city of Perpignan, in the Languedoc region, apparently took place on the night of June 10 and was discovered the next morning.

According to police investigators, several people armed with crowbars broke into the cemetery. The vandals overturned headstones, opened graves and smashed a Holocaust memorial to Jews deported from France.

No slogans or graffiti were found and no group claimed responsibility for this action. A police investigation has yet to identify the perpetrators.

The large scale and southern locale of the vandalism calls to mind the savage desecration three years ago of the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras, some 70 miles northeast of Haut-Vernet, for which no perpetrators have ever been found.

Since then, there have been a number of attacks on Jewish cemeteries, including two outside of Strasbourg last January, one in Lyon last September and another that month in the eastern town of Merlebach.

But this latest desecration is the worst in France since the one in Carpentras, which triggered massive protest marches and vigils.

Jean Kahn, head of CRIF, the umbrella body representing French Jewry, said the Jewish community was pained by this new desecration of a Jewish cemetery in France.

In this cemetery, Kahn recalled, were the bodies of Jews arrested and jailed by the Vichy police following the orders of French Nazi collaborator Rene Bousquet, who was shot to death last week in Paris.

Speculating that the desecration might be linked to the murder, Kahn asked to meet with the French interior minister. In a message to Kahn, French President Francois Mitterrand expressed his “profound condemnation following this absurd and heinous act.”

Likewise, the head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, said he was “deeply shocked” by the desecration.

“I vigorously oppose these manifestations of racial hatred,” Boubakeur said.

At Sunday’s solemn demonstration at the cemetery, the rabbi of Perpignan, Herve Krief, said the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Leaders of the Union of Jewish Students carried banners reading “We will not forget.” The student leaders urged that the struggle against anti-Semitism be stepped up.

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