Authorities Believe 200 Vandalized Graves at Jewish Cemetery Was Organized

Vandals rampaged through a sprawling Jewish cemetery in Romania's capital, toppling tombstones and smashing markers for as many as 200 graves, authorities said Friday.

Jewish leaders condemned the vandalism and said the scale of the destruction suggested the activity was organized — rather than random acts by wayward youths. Other graves have been vandalized in Jewish cemeteries in recent years, but those attacks occurred in the provinces, and were more limited in scope.

"We cannot be silent," said Ozi Lazar, who heads Bucharest's Jewish community. "We want a full investigation and for the perpetrators to be punished."

Romania's justice ministry promised a thorough investigation into the vandalism, which took place Thursday.

After communism ended in 1989, there was a rise in anti-Semitic articles in nationalist newspapers. That largely disappeared after former President Ion Iliescu recognized the Holocaust.

Iliescu appointed an international panel led by Nobel-prize winner Elie Wiesel in 2004 to investigate the Holocaust in Romania, concluding that the government of Marshal Ion Antonescu was responsible for the deaths of up to 380,000 Jews and more than 11,000 Gypsies, or Roma.

More than 40,000 Jews are buried in the Jewish Cemetery in south Bucharest, including some victims of the Holocaust. None of the Holocaust victims' graves was vandalized.