A monument to Dutch Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust was found vandalized Sunday with swastikas, with local authorities “dumbfounded” over the hate crime.
Police have opened an investigation and called on the public to come forward with any information.
The vandalism occurred in the town of Hoogezand in the province of Groningen in the northeastern Netherlands, next to a railway station that was used during World War II to transport local Jews to Nazi concentration camps, where almost all perished.
Several swastikas were found spray-painted on the monument on Sunday morning, according to Dutch TV broadcaster NOS.
“I am dumbfounded that such an action can occur in our municipality, or anywhere else,” said Rein Munniksma, mayor of the Midden-Groningen municipality, according to the NL Times website. “It is really incomprehensible that swastikas are drawn on a Jewish monument.”
Joods monument in Hoogezand beklad. https://t.co/Ojp3S3gjHN
Het Joods Monument tegenover het station Hoogezand-Sappermeer is afgelopen nacht beklad met hakenkruisen. Vanaf dit punt werden in de oorlog Joden op transport gezet naar Westerbork, vanwaar ze naar de vernie… pic.twitter.com/3leWB3M8yc
— NL Nieuws (@NieuwsNu123) June 10, 2018
Hanna Luden, director of the Dutch Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, said the act was difficult to grasp.
“The entire Jewish community in Hoogezand was wiped out, and then someone does something like that. You just can’t understand it,” she was quoted as saying in Dutch media.
Another writing found daubed on the Jewish monument appeared to spell the word “Pegida” — a German far-right, mostly anti-Muslim, organization.
But Pegida’s local branch leader, Edwin Wagensveld, denied any connection and accused the perpetrators of “abusing” the group’s name, telling the broadcaster: “This is really a scandalous action and we dissociate ourselves from this behavior.”
Helaas, dit tegen gekomen vanmorgen op mijn rondje Oosterpark Hoogezand op het Joods Monument!! Wat een 'gotspe'! Gemeentewerken MG heeft adequaat gereageerd op acties van de buurt: het is nu weer bijna weg. pic.twitter.com/NmYan5hyC7
— ???? Thea van der Veen ???? (@TheavdVeen) June 10, 2018
Authorities attempted to erase the graffiti, but were said to have failed since the monument’s material is old and weathered. The swastikas are less pronounced, but still visible, according to the reports.
The Hoogezand Jewish community was founded in the early 18th century. Over the years it maintained an active Jewish community, with a synagogue, and in 1930 it numbered some 230 people. All but several of them died in the Holocaust, with the community never being rebuilt and the synagogue sold and razed shortly after the war ended.
The monument is now the last remnant of the town’s Jewish history.