Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative)
Headstone at Jewish cemetery (illustrative) iStock

Two men have been arrested in Germany for allegedly knocking over 40 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery and spraying some of them with blue paint, police said Monday, according to AFP.

The two suspects, aged 21 and 33, were "known to the police" and were arrested near the cemetery in western Geilenkirchen, the Aachen police said in a statement.

A witness alerted police after seeing two people in hoods and wearing dark outfits knock over tombstones and spray some with blue paint overnight.

Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

A report released last summer found that Germany had seen an increased number of attacks on Jews during the first half of 2018.

Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to tackle hatred after an attack on a German synagogue in Halle in October killed two people during Yom Kippur.

The German government promised at the end of November to introduce a law making it possible to increase penalties when a crime involved an anti-Semitic motive.