Lifestyle & Belief

Vandals deface monument to murdered Jews in Poland

A monument on the spot in Poland where hundreds of Jews were burned alive during World War II was vandalized this week, drawing condemnation from the Polish government, Poland's Jewish community and Holocaust survivors.

The monument in the town of Jedwabne is a memorial to those who died there on July 10, 1941, the Associated Press reports, "when about 40 Poles hunted down the town's Jews, shut them up in a barn and set it alight, killing between 300 and 400 people."

The vandals used green spray paint to draw a swastika and a SS symbol on the monument, along with the phrases "I don't apologize for Jedwabne" and "they were flammable."

"I utterly condemn these acts of criminality, alien to Polish tradition," Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said in a statement on Thursday. "There is no room for such behavior in Polish society — even if it is the work of but a small group of extremists."

The vandalism was discovered Wednesday. Police are trying to find those responsible.

Leaders of Poland's Jewish community spoke out against the act, the AP reports:

Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich recalled that the swastika, the Nazi symbol, was both anti-Polish and anti-Semitic. He said the incident at Jedwabne does not reflect the sentiment of the country, but called on Poles to speak out strongly against such acts of hatred and anti-Semitism.

Elan Steinberg, Vice-President of American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, issued a statement calling on Poland to find the perpetrators.

“Holocaust survivors are horrified by this violent act of hate and demand swift punishment of the perpetrators by the Polish authorities,” Steinberg said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “Coming on the anniversary of the Second World War, the target of the vandals' hatred was not only the Jewish community but the standing and reputation of modern-day Poland.”

Thursday marked the anniversary of the German attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, the start of World War II.