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Ancient French Jewish Cemetery Brutally Desecrated, Body Exhumed

May 11, 1990
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An ancient Jewish cemetery in Carpentras, in southern France, was brutally desecrated before dawn Thursday as some 34 gravestones were overturned. The corpse of an 82-year-old man, buried two weeks ago, was exhumed and thrown over another grave, impaled on an umbrella handle.

President Francois Mitterrand expressed “horror” at the criminal act. “Whoever the perpetrators, they must be found and punished,” the president declared.

The act was denounced by virtually every political faction in France, and by outraged leaders of French Jewry.

According to the police, the vandalism was perpetrated by at least four people, who spent almost all night in the cemetery. The grounds were strewn with empty beer cans.

The Catholic churchyard in Carpentras has been desecrated repeatedly in recent years, but no one has been caught.

Interior Minister Pierre Joxe, who visited the scene Thursday, said, “One cannot but blush with shame to see what has been perpetrated in France.

“We thought such abominations could not happen in France,” he added. Joxe appeared shocked by what he had seen.

Jean Kahn, president of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewish organizations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Jewish community was “horrified by this unspeakable act.

“We ask for compensation for our dead and our communities,” he said.

Kahn blamed mounting racial hatred and anti-Semitism in France. “Even the Nazis, in the darkest days of occupation, never picked on the corpses of our dead,” he said.

Carpentras, a city of 26,000, is one of the most ancient Jewish communities in France. Its synagogue dates from 1367 and was rebuilt in 1741.

But only 10 Jewish families live there now, most of them Sephardim who came from North Africa after 1962 and are well integrated.

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