Ukraine police nab 3 teens suspected of desecrating Jewish mass grave


Ukrainian police on Thursday arrested three teenagers suspected of desecrating a mass grave of Holocaust victims near Rivne.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian police said police believe the suspects, aged 17-19, sprayed swastikas on the monument near the Rivne killing site in western Ukraine on June 6.

Rabbi Shneor Schneersohn, chief rabbi of Rivne, told JTA, “The attack had clearly been anti-Semitic.” He said the perpetrators sprayed anti-Semitic profanities on the monument, smashed light fixtures and floor tiles.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian interior ministry said the suspects would be prosecuted for hooliganism. If convicted, they could face a four-year prison term.

Schneersohn, a Chabad rabbi who has been living in Rivne for eight years, said the attack was the first in five years. In 2005 perpetrators dug up graves of murdered Jews, presumably hoping to find jewelry or gold teeth.

Ukrainian authorities are eager to prevent the recurrence of anti-Semitic incidents, Schneersohn said, citing the European soccer championship matches taking place this month in Ukraine. “Anti-Semitic incidents don’t look good—especially now,” he said.

At least 17,000 Jews are believed to be buried near the monument outside Rivne. German troops massacred them with machine guns in November 1941, in one of the largest mass executions of Jews that year in the German military-administered territories.

Kosovo Jewish cemetery desecrated


Kosovo authorities are investigating the desecration Tuesday of a local Jewish cemetery. Swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans were sprayed on tombstones of this old cemetery which was restored less than six months ago.

Rabbi Yoel Kaplan, Chief Rabbi of Albania and Chabad representative to the region who was designated to oversee the cemetery by the Government of Kosovo, was contacted by the Prime Minister’s office, which condemned the vandalism.

“They reassured me that the authorities are working vigorously to find the perpetrators,” Kaplan told lubavitch.com in a phone interview from Israel.

There are about 70 Jewish graves in the cemetery, which lay in disrepair for years. “It was used a soccer field, and the graves were used as goalies,” said Rabbi Kaplan.

After the renovation in June by a group of American and Kosovan students, Kaplan learned that certain groups objected to the government for its help in restoring the cemetery. Kaplan says he suspects that the complaints came from neighboring Serbia.

“As Jewish life in the Balkans experiences a renewal, we’re seeing resentment and opposition by certain organizations and groups who seem not to tolerate the Jewish revival this region is experiencing,” Kaplan said.

Rabbi Kaplan made a recommendation to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, as a cautionary measure, that security cameras be installed on the cemetery grounds.

The Prime Minister did not see reason for any real worry, said Kaplan. “We were rather optimistic. The fact is that when people in Kosovo see me—a conspicuously religious Jew—they approach with warmth and blessing. They want to learn about Judaism, and are so happy to see Jews return to this area,” said Kaplan.

President Atifete Jahjaga condemned the act. “The damaging of cemeteries presents an act in complete contradiction with the traditions and values of the people of Kosovo, based on tolerance and full respect for all the dead and all the monuments,” Jahjaga said in a statement.

Kosovo, which is largely Muslim, has a tiny population of 50 Jews. The former Serbian province declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.

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