Nearly a third of the gravestones in a 200-year-old Jewish cemetery in northeastern France, near the German border, were smashed Friday night in an act of violent desecration.
Of the 126 thick limestone tombstones, 49 were broken and toppled over in the 19th century cemetery in the town of Bar-le-Duc, located in the Meuse district of the Lorraine region. No grafitti was found at the scene.
The vandalism was discovered when a passerby walking his dog noticed that the gate, which was usually locked, hung open. Police were immediately notified.
The French National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism (BNCVA) issued a statement asking the prosecutor to “take into consideration the racist character of the degradations in this old Jewish cemetery, which constitute an anti-Semitic act despite the absence of any inscription.”
Police said they were looking for a group of suspects, rather than a single individual. “These are very heavy gravestones which were moved, fell on the ground and broke due to their heavy weight. A single person could not have defaced the cemetery on his own,” state prosecutor Yves Badorc said. “So the police are looking for several suspects.”
An investigation has been launched into the incident.
A Jewish cemetery in eastern France was similarly attacked in July, when vandals smashed and overturned 27 gravestones in the town of Wolfisheim, in the Alsace region.
In nearby Strasbourg, some 30 Jewish tombstones were broken and defaced at the beginning of the year, in January. “Juden Raus” (Jews Out) was scrawled on one of the gravestones, and 18 others were painted with swastikas.