About 20 Jewish graves, some dating back to the 1880s, were desecrated at an Auckland cemetery with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti. The acts of vandalism occurred at some point between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning, when the damage was discovered.
The Jewish community in New Zealand was shocked by the incident at the Karangahape Road Cemetery, which was described as the first of its kind.
Photographs showed rows of graves sprayed with swastikas, the number “88″ — a code used by neo-Nazis to mean “Heil Hitler” with “H” being the eighth letter of the alphabet — and anti-Semitic messages, according to AFP.
Two graves were defaced with anti-Israel expletives, reported JTA.
“New Zealand is normally quite a tolerant society and quite accepting, and the Jewish presence has been in New Zealand for over 170 years,” said New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman. “It is incredibly disappointing to think that this sort of thing happens in New Zealand,” he told NZ Newswire.
The cemetery, Auckland’s first, has long been the target of vandalism; however, Jewish graves had never been specifically targeted. “This is the first and most major anti-Semitic vandalism attack and it is very concerning and very upsetting,” Goodman said.
The Israeli Embassy called the crime a “vile desecration” and urged authorities to bring the vandals to justice.
“Sixty-seven years after the liberation of the Jewish people from the death camps and ghettos of Europe, expressions of blind hatred for Jews and for the sole Jewish state resurface,” the embassy said in a statement.