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Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery vandalized

BERLIN (JTA) – After vandals struck Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery, Jewish leaders are asking area metal dealers to check for wrought-iron objects that might have been stolen from the cemetery.

Vandals recently damaged 16 gravesites and stole 47 items from the Weissensee Cemetery in the former East Berlin. According to the community, renovations on some of the tombs had been completed as recently as last April. The stolen items are worth about $16,000.

"But the immaterial damage is much greater," the community said in a statement issued Monday.

"Theft in general is a serious offense," Grigory Kristal, head of cultural affairs for the community, said. "But to destroy graves at the Jewish cemetery demonstrates a lack of respect and lack of understanding of the past."

Observers suggested the motive was profit and not anti-Semitism, since specifically metal objects were removed. Such thefts reportedly are on the rise at cemeteries all over Berlin from all religious denominations. Police patrols and surveillance have been stepped up at Weissensee.

The Jewish community plans to contact metal dealers to warn them to be vigilant regarding sellers of potentially stolen goods.

The cemetery is the subject of a recent award-winning documentary, called "Im Himmel unter der Erde," or "In Heaven Underground."

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