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the profaners of the Jewish cemetery of Sarre-Union heavily condemned to pay damages, “an exemplary judgment”

The five teenagers who had desecrated the Jewish cemetery of Sarre-Union (Bas-Rhin) in 2015 have just been sentenced again, this Friday, March 25, 2022, by the Saverne juvenile court. They will have to pay 82,500 euros in damages to the families and 11,000 euros for legal fees.

They had already been sentenced to sentences ranging from 8 to 18 months suspended prison sentence and 140 hours of community service, in September 2017. The defilers of the Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery will also have to pay 82,500 euros in damages and interest and 11,000 euros for legal fees.

The Saverne children’s court delivered its judgment this Friday, March 25. He thus recognizes the moral prejudice suffered by the families of the deceased. On February 12, 2015, 269 graves – out of the 400 in the cemetery of this town in northern Alsace – were ransacked by five teenagers, then aged 13 to 16. The anti-Semitic motive of their act had been retained.

Seven long years later, it’s a “relief” for the Jewish community. “With this court sentence, we are no longer talking about the desecration of a cemetery, we are finally putting names on the graves”breathes Thierry Roos, spokesperson for the Jewish consistory of Bas-Rhin.

The relatives of the dead buried in Sarre-Union had been “very disappointed” by the sentences pronounced in 2017. They had therefore decided to continue the procedure in order to obtain moral reparation.

“We made a significant claim for compensation, not for the amount itself, but for the principle, says Master Muriel Ouaknine Melki, one of the lawyers for the civil parties. Because we are convinced that when someone has to put their hands in their wallet, they are not ready to start again. In the village, everyone will know about this amount, it will deter those who might be tempted to do the same.”

The lawyer intervened voluntarily on behalf of the European Jewish Organization (see tweet below), with five other colleagues. “The Sarre-Union cemetery had already been desecrated many times. The moral damage had never been compensated, except the last time when the perpetrators had to pay a symbolic euro. What has just happened is unprecedented. Justice has sent a clear and firm message.”

The families had experienced as one more insult the attitude of the defense lawyers, who had pleaded for the symbolic euro. “On the first part, it was the parents’ insurance that paid. The young people did not take a penny out of their pockets. If the perpetrators of these anti-Semitic acts are only sentenced to a symbolic euro, why is it that they wouldn’t do it again?”insists Maurice Dahan, president of the Jewish consistory of Bas-Rhin, owner of the cemetery.

The consistory supported the families in their approach, but did not bring civil action in the case, preferring “concentrate his energy on the restoration work of the stelae to be carried out.”

A restoration that was only really started five years after the degradation of the cemetery. It was also necessary that a sponsor advance funds to allow the launch of the work – they amounted to approximately 800,000 euros – the time that the insurances take over. On October 28, 2021, when the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, traveled to Sarre-Union for a so-called “rehabilitation” ceremony of the Jewish cemetery, the families were still angry.

“It’s hard to have to wait so long to mourn again. It’s a second death to take”says Thierry Roos. The compensation to be paid by the profaners is therefore “just reparation.”

He greets “A belated but exemplary judgement. Can you imagine the weight of a grave? So to devastate more than 250… It’s brutal. Attacking the dead in this way is unbearable. “expressed no regrets, which could have steered the decision differently. This sentence must make them realize that what they did is unacceptable.”

The spokesperson for the Jewish consistory of Bas-Rhin has not forgotten anything about that day in February 2015 when he discovered the ravaged stelae with some local elected officials and members of the Jewish community. One “shock”in an already difficult context, just one month after the attacks in Paris in January 2015.

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