Vandals Descecrate 35 Jewish Graves in Paris
PARIS (AP) _ Thirty-four tombs at a Jewish cemetery were desecrated by vandals, and the body of an elderly man was dug up and impaled on an umbrella, authorities said Thursday.
Leaders across the political spectrum reacted with outrage at the desecration, one of the worst such incidents ever in France. It occurred two days after a nationwide telecast of a three-hour documentary about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
Interior Minister Pierre Joxe said several tombs in the south-central town of Carpentras were left ″in conditions so abominable that one can’t describe them without embarrassment.″ He traveled to the town to inspect the site.
″I learned with horror of this criminal act,″ President Francois Mitterrand said in a telegram to Freddy Haddad, a Jewish leader in Carpentras.
Mitterrand later went to the Paris home of France’s chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, to express his distress and solidarity.
″I’ve come as one does for a family in mourning,″ Mitterrand said.
Sitruk said: ″A civilization that doesn’t respect the dead is headed toward destruction of the living.″
Police said the body of an 81-year-old man who died about two weeks ago was found impaled on an umbrella when the desecration was discovered early Thursday. Grave markers were knocked over and flower pots were trampled, but no graffiti were found.
″It is unimaginable that such deeds are possible in France,″ said Joxe.
Jean Kahn, leader of a national coalition of Jewish groups, said the desecration came at a time when racial hatred was being encouraged ″by those who promote anti-Semitic rhetoric and fascist themes.″
Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose extreme-right National Front party has been accused of condoning anti-Semitism, condemned the desecration as ″barbaric behavior.″
No one claimed responsibility for the desecration, and no arrests were reported.
Carpentras, with a population of about 26,000, is 60 miles north of Marseille. Its mayor, Jean-Claude Andrieu, described it as a quiet town in which the Jewish community lived harmoniously.
Several incidents of vandalism have occurred at Jewish cemeteries in recent years, most recently when anti-Semitic slogans were scrawled on tombs near Paris late last year.
In Los Angeles, Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, condemned the desecration as a ″despicable act that stains the name of humanity. It shows that in the heart of Western civilization there are those against us who given the opportunity would operate once again the gas chambers of Auschwitz.″