Holocaust memorial defaced with swastikas

November 12, 2008 6:58:17 PM PST
Vandals have defaced a Holocaust memorial outside the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, police said today.

San Francisco police were notified of the vandalism at about 9 a.m. today when a swastika inside a Star of David was found drawn in black marker on a bench in Lincoln Park, Lt. Neville Gittens said.

Similar 4- to 8-inch drawings were found on the nearby memorial; two on a granite plaque bearing the title of the work, "The Holocaust," one on a plaque beneath the words "Never say there is no hope," and one drawn on the right shoulder of a plaster figure standing behind barbed wire.

The memorial, a permanent art installation by sculptor George Segal, was dedicated in 1984 and is one of many works owned and maintained by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Jill Manton, director of the city's $80 million collection of public art, said the Arts Commission deals with graffiti on many of its public installations, and that anti-Semitic graffiti has shown up on the memorial in Lincoln Park before.

"I believe it happens periodically with that sculpture," Manton said.

The cost of repairing the damage has not yet been assessed, but Manton said such repairs are always costly and take money away from the commission's other projects.

"We hire conservators who are experienced in removing graffiti without harming the surface of the figures," she said. "We try to act immediately."

Authorities in San Jose today are trying to determine who marked swastikas and a Star of David on two churches this week.

The vandalism there is being treated as a hate crime, San Jose police Officer Jermaine Thomas said.

Staff at Trinity Presbyterian Church and Indonesian Christian Church, both located at 3151 Union Ave., reported the vandalism early Monday morning.

Thomas said the markings were found on the signs for both of the churches.

Jack Longley, a pastor at Trinity Presbyterian, said the combination of the swastika and Star of David was not familiar to him.

"Those two are certainly not compatible," he said.

So far, authorities have found no connection between the crimes in San Jose and San Francisco.

Visitors to the Holocaust memorial today were shocked and horrified that someone had vandalized a monument that pledges its existence to "the creation of a world in which such evil and such apathy will not be tolerated."

Phoebe Gaston and her daughter Courtney had come to visit the Legion of Honor from Sonoma.

"We didn't expect to see this," Phoebe said, reaching through the barbed wire to touch the cheek of the figure that had been defaced. "It just grabs your heart."


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