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Authorities are investigating antisemitic graffiti found on Auschwitz barracks

A visitor walks near barbed wire and prison barracks at the former Auschwitz I concentration camp on Jan. 26, 2020, in Oswiecim, Poland.
A visitor walks near barbed wire and prison barracks at the former Auschwitz I concentration camp on Jan. 26, 2020, in Oswiecim, Poland.

Polish police are investigating vandalism at the site of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the largest of the World War II-era Nazi extermination camps used during the Holocaust.

Auschwitz Memorial officials said spray-painted inscriptions in both English and German were found on nine wooden barracks on the property on Tuesday, and some of them were "antisemitic in nature."

They pointed specifically to two references to the Old Testament "often used by antisemites," as well as "denial slogans."

The case has been reported to police, and surveillance video is being analyzed. Museum officials say the traces of vandalism will be removed as soon as police have finished their documentation, and they are asking anyone who may have witnessed the vandalism to report information to a specific email address.

They called it not just an offense against the memorial, but "an outrageous attack on the symbol of one of the greatest tragedies in human history and an extremely painful blow to the memory of all the victims of the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp."

Some 1.1 million of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz — including 960,000 Jews — died at the camp between 1940 and 1945, many systematically killed in its gas chambers.

The site is now a museum dedicated to "recalling the evil that humans are capable of inflicting on each other," as NPR's Rob Schmitz put it in a story about Auschwitz survivors sharing their experiences in the name of Holocaust education.

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem — Israel's official memorial to victims of the Holocaust — described the vandalism as an attack on the memory of victims, survivors and "any person with a conscience."

"It is also yet another painful reminder that more must be done to raise awareness about the Holocaust and to educate the public and the younger generation regarding the dangers of antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion," Dayan added.


This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.