Five teenagers were being detained Monday on suspicion of desecrating approximately 250 Jewish graves in a cemetery in eastern France, a local prosecutor said.wpid-court20ordders0.jpg

The suspects were “very, very young,” prosecutor Philippe Varnier said of the five, who were aged between 15 and 17 years old. They were all from the region, he added, and did not have criminal records. Their motives remained unclear.

One of the youths turned themselves in on Monday morning and indicated who else was involved, Varnier said. They reportedly entered the cemetery on Thursday, sometime between late afternoon and early evening.

A monument to the victims of Nazi deportations, many of whom ended up in death camps, was also defiled. Of the 250 graves that were desecrated, the prosecutor said, most were uprooted or turned around.

Jacques Wolff, a self-described member of one of the last two Jewish families in the Sarre-Union municipality, told AFP news agency that “stones are smashed, marble plates are broken, stones are dislocated and some have rolled downhill.”

President Francois Hollande decried the act when it became public Sunday, saying in a statement that “France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who want to compromise the values of the Republic.”

France has seen a mounting wave of anti-Semitic incidents and a surge in Jewish emigration. A study released in January showed that anti-Semitic acts in France doubled last year compared to 2013, and violent acts increased by 130 per cent. France has Europe’s largest Jewish population.

During deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in early January, one of the three gunmen targeted a kosher supermarket, killing four. Earlier this month, soldiers guarding a Jewish centre in Nice were attacked by a man with a knife.

The incident in Sarre-Union is the third time the cemetery in the Alsace region had been desecrated. In 1988, 60 grave stones were overturned and in 2001 more than 50 graves were damaged.



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