JERUSALEM, Israel – Some 20 graves in France were vandalized with swastikas and the words “Death to Jews” and “Death to the French,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Thursday.
The gravestones were vandalized on Sunday in the Gruissan municipal cemetery in the Aude region and appear to have been chosen at random. None of them were broken or destroyed, France 3 television reported.
Authorities are investigating the incident and the cemetery is currently closed to the public. No suspect has been identified.
The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism said in a statement that the vandalism was surprising.
“This commune of Gruissan, beach town, is usually rather calm, rather peaceful, and this aggression surprises and scandalizes us,” the group said.
“We ask the Police and Gendarmerie to make every effort to identify the perpetrators probably of racist, anti-Semitic activists, cowardly to the point of attacking graves and who dedicate France to its institutions to its Republican values, in his memory a fierce and ideological hatred.”
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The vandalism comes after reports of the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery being targeted in a similar fashion.
The European Jewish Association (EJA) said on Sunday the graves were desecrated in Heiliger Sand (“Holy Sands” in German) in Worms, Germany. Thousands of people visit this gravesite every year and the oldest recognizable tombstones date back to 1058.
Media reports estimate that 50 to 100 graves were vandalized.
These incidents come amid a new wave of anti-Semitism during the coronavirus pandemic, experts warn.
"The story I'm afraid is fairly bleak," Gary Bauer tells CBN News. He's one of nine commissioners who sit on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which monitors and promotes religious liberty abroad and makes recommendations to the Trump administration.
In 2019, anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply across Europe. Germany saw a 12 percent increase. France, which is home to the largest Jewish population in Europe, saw a 27 percent surge, and the Netherlands, former home of Holocaust diary author Anne Frank, saw a 35 percent hike.
"Anti-Semitism is like a coronavirus of the heart and soul. It seems to be able to mutate. It pops up everywhere, in every century, and seems to go in waves, and unfortunately, we're experiencing one of those waves now," said Bauer.