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59 headstones smashed at Jewish cemetery in Slovakia

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Dozens of headstones were knocked down and set on fire at a Jewish cemetery in Slovakia.

The damage was discovered on Monday at the Jewish cemetery in Námestovo, a town in northern Slovakia near the Polish border, TV Noviny reported Tuesday.

The perpetrators, who have not been identified, seemed to have worked methodically as they toppled entire rows of headstones at the cemetery, whose oldest graves are from the 18th century. No new burials have occurred in the cemetery in decades.

The headstones did not bear anti-Semitic symbols.

In a statement, the World Jewish Congress said the incident showed that “it has become sadly clear that in the climate of xenophobia and hatred spiralling across Europe, every minority community is indeed a potential target for malicious attack.”

In Central and Eastern Europe, inactive Jewish cemeteries often attract vagrants because they are often located outside urban centres and out of sight of law enforcement. Some incidents of vandalism have been attributed to drunks and drug users and art not always deemed hate crimes.

The cemetery in Námestovo has seen acts of vandalism in the past, Karol Kurtulík, a member of the board of ZCN, a remembrance group that has worked to preserve the site, told the news site MY.

But in the past, “It was only two, three damaged graves. I repaired them and didn’t make a fuss. But this is terrible,” he said.

Police are investigating the incident, ZCN said in a statement.

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