Bratislava, Slovakia – Dozens of gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in northern Slovakia, local authorities announced earlier this week.
Unknown vandals have desecrated 59 Jewish gravestones, some of them more than 200 years old, in the cemetery of the town of Namestovo. Dating back to the second half of the 18th century, the cemetery was entirely restored in 2010 after decades of neglect.
Karol Kurtulik, the cemetery’s manager, described the vandalism as an “unprecedented barbaric act”. “When I discovered this, my legs went weak”, he added, linking the incident to the rise of anti-Semitism, “spread through fake news and online conspiracy theories”, in Slovakia.
Although part of a European-wide trend, anti-Semitism has risen sharply in Central Europe. The Czech Republic has seen a steady increase of anti-Semitic acts in recent years, while neighbouring Poland and Hungary rank among the countries in Europe where anti-Semitic attitudes and views are the most prevalent, according to a global survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The cost of the damages inflicted on Namestovo’s cemetery has been estimated at around 50,000€. Local groups and organizations have already pledged to gather funds to cover the restoration of the vandalized gravestones.
“Many locals, but also people from across Slovakia have contacted me offering to help”, Kurtulik said. Slovak police announced they were investigating the incident and trying to identify the culprits.
Decimated during World War II, Slovakia’s Jewish community is one of the smallest in Europe, numbering at less than 3,000 according to the latest estimates.