A monument commemorating hundreds of Polish Jews who were burned alive during World War II has been vandalized with swastikas and green paint.
The desecrated memorial was discovered Thursday morning in Jedwabne, northwest Poland with the words: “I am not sorry for Jedwabne” and “they were flammable” spray painted on a nearby fence.
“SS”, the name of an elite Nazi force, now covers inscriptions in Polish and Hebrew on the memorial.
The monument marks the spot where over 300 Jews were gathered into a barn and set on fire by local Polish Catholics in July 1941.
For decades, Nazis were held responsible for the murders until exact details of the massacre were finally exposed in a 2000 book “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” by sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross.
The book sparked a Polish government investigation, which revealed that Poles were to blame for the killings. Poland’s then-president Aleksander Kwaśniewski apologized for his country’s sins; however, many in the country are in denial that their own people committed such an atrocious act.
Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said on Thursday that there is no place in Polish society for extremists who commit such acts.
The desecrated monument marks the latest in a series of attacks targeting minorities.
Police are also investigating an incident in the nearby city of Bialystok where an Islamic cultural center was attacked. According to authorities, there have been several acts of vandalism in the area, including the defacing of 28 signs in Lithuanian and fascist graffiti on the walls of the 18th century synagogue in the village of Orla.
The police have not yet commented on whether the crimes are related.
The monument was installed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom, which are the attacks and killings of a particular group based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, Polish officials were remembering the 72nd anniversary of the German attack on the country on Sept. 1, 1939, which marked the start of World War II.
Elan Steinberg, the vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement that they were “horrified” by the vandalism.
Steinberg called upon the Polish authorities to punish the culprits of “this violent act of hate” as soon as possible. He considers the memorial proof that Poland is dedicated to confronting its anti-Semitic past.
“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,” said Steinberg.