Police investigating graffiti at Florida Holocaust Museum as hate crime
© Florida Holocaust Museum

Police in St. Petersburg, Fla., are investigating antisemitic graffiti discovered at the Florida Holocaust Museum on Thursday as a possible hate crime.

The museum reported that swastikas and other hateful rhetoric including “the Jews are guilty,” were found spray-painted in black on the walls.

Police officers on their patrols downtown noticed the graffiti around 4 a.m. and city sanitation workers painted over the vandalism shortly after, according to local ABC affiliate WFTS.

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The graffiti was discovered the same day as a virtual rally for the "Day of Action Against Antisemitism,” following a startling spike of U.S. antisemitic incidents amid an outbreak of violence in the Middle East.

“This act of hatred demonstrates that the work of the Florida Holocaust Museum is more important than ever,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum. “We remain committed to our vital mission to prevent future genocides and educate people about the dangers of antisemitism and other forms of racism and hatred. Clearly, our society still has a long way to go.”

Michael Igel, chairman of the museum’s board, said the attack was personal for him as the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“The lessons of the Holocaust have not yet been learned, but the Museum and the broader community who supports our vital work will never be intimidated by cowardly vandals, nor will we be deterred from our mission,” Igel said in a statement.

The vandalism was also widely condemned by political leaders.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called for “disgusting” antisemitic acts to end immediately.

“I’ll always stand with Florida's Jewish community and pray that those responsible for this despicable act of hatred are swiftly brought to justice,” he wrote.

“Horrified by this act of antisemitic hate on the walls of Florida’s tribute to the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust,” wrote Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Trump announces endorsement in GOP race to replace Crist in Florida GOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court MORE (D-Fla.). "This disgusting crime shows exactly why we must preserve this history for future generations, so we may keep our promise of ‘Never again’.”

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“Even St. Pete isn’t immune to the hate that exists in our society. We stand with our Jewish Community,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) said on Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League reported in April that 2020 was the third-worst year for antisemitic incidents since it first began tracking such data in 1979. According to the organization, 2,024 incidents of antisemitic assault, harassment and vandalism were reported last year.

This February, a set of Holocaust memorial statues were destroyed at a Tulsa, Okla., Jewish art museum and swastikas were spray-painted on a synagogue in Spokane, Wash.

A student at the University of Connecticut was arrested last month and charged with a hate crime in connection to a spray-painted swastika near the campus's Hillel building during the Jewish holiday of Passover.