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Jewish cemetery near Auschwitz vandalized with Nazi symbols

The historic cemetery was destroyed by German Nazis at the end of World War II and restored by the 1990s.
Image: The entrance to the Auschwitz I German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, with the motto 'Arbeit macht frei' ('Work brings freedom') over the gateway, southern Poland.
The entrance to Auschwitz, the World War II concentration and extermination camp, in southern Poland.Richard Blanshard / Getty Images file

The wall of a Jewish cemetery near the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland was defaced with swastikas and other Nazi symbols over the weekend, prompting local officials to condemn the vandalism and promise to crack down on those responsible.

Janusz Chwierut, the mayor of Oświęcim, as the town is known in Polish, on Sunday condemned the “fascist symbols” and called on local law enforcement to find and prosecute the perpetrators.

“Auschwitz is a place where such acts will always be condemned," Chwierut wrote in a statement.

"Auschwitz is also a symbol of the centuries-old coexistence of the Jewish and Christian communities, and the inhabitants of pre-war Auschwitz are buried in the Jewish cemetery. Such actions undermine our common memory.”

The symbols were quick to be removed after they were found, according to the Auschwitz Museum, which described the incident as “painful” in a tweet that included photos of the graffiti. The cemetery is maintained by the Auschwitz Jewish Center and members of the community. The town was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945.

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A policeman noticed the vandalism on Sunday morning, local police told NBC News in a statement. No suspects have yet been identified. Perpetrators could face up to 10 years in prison for the combined offenses of promoting fascist content and damaging a historical monument, according to a police spokesperson.

This vandalism comes after a reported spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Germany and hate crimes around the world. A man was injured during a Hanukkah service in Kentucky last month and two were killed in a botched attack on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle in 2019.

“We need to keep fighting against all forms of hatred,” the Auschwitz Museum wrote.