Markus Schreiber  /  AP
Germany's Holocaust Memorial is made up of charcoal-colored concrete slabs.
updated 5/13/2005 5:03:04 PM ET 2005-05-13T21:03:04

Within hours of the opening of Germany’s national Holocaust memorial to the public, a vandal scratched a swastika into one of the 2,711 gray slabs, a spokesman for the memorial said Friday.

The small swastika was spotted by security guards and quickly removed, though the vandal was not caught, spokesman Uwe Neumaerker said.

“What else can we do?” he said. “There are some security forces and they walk through and if they find something they remove it. ... You can’t be everywhere at once.”

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was officially inaugurated Tuesday after years of debate and delay. It opened to the public Thursday.

The underground information center had 2,700 visitors but many more wandered among the haunting field of slabs. Neumaerker said he could not even speculate who may have defaced the slab.

Designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, the memorial in the former no man’s land of the Berlin Wall is a labyrinth of narrow rising and falling pathways between the upright slabs in the ground.

It took 17 years of wrangling among German politicians over its design and message before it was finally completed.

Ahead of its opening, Eisenman said he recognized the memorial could not please everyone, and that he wouldn’t mind skateboarders, children playing hide and seek or even graffiti on the slabs.

Asked Monday if the project would be demeaned if someone scratched Nazi symbols on it, he was noncommittal. “Maybe it would. Maybe it wouldn’t,” Eisenman said. “Maybe it would add to it.”

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