February 05, 2007

Holocaust Memorials defiled by neo-Nazis

From Times Online:

The German authorities were preparing for criticism from the Jewish community after it was revealed that a Holocaust memorial in Berlin was being used as a public lavatory by tourists and by neo-Nazi sympathisers.

The disclosure, in a Berlin newspaper, will trigger a new debate about how the Holocaust should be remembered in Germany. One argument against building the monument -- that consists of 2,700 concrete slabs resembling Jewish gravestones -- was that it would become a target of anti-Semitic vandals. The managers of the memorial, which attracts 3.5 million visitors a year, have tried to play down the scandal. 'This just belongs to the teething problems of any new monument", Uwe Neumaerker, of the Memorial Foundation, said.

The German Government has been aware of the problem since the monument was completed in May 2005 but has tried to maintain a silence for fear of encouraging more vandalism. The defacing of Jewish memorial areas in Germany by followers of the far Right has become a widespread problem that is acknowledged rarely. On the eve of Holocaust Day at the weekend a group of youths set fire to a restored railway carriage -- symbolising the deportation of the Jews -- in Lower Saxony.

In the eastern German port of Stralsund, concrete was poured over a memorial for a Jewish family, the Keibel-Cohns. A court in Frankfurt an der Oder, on the Polish border, sentenced three youths to between nine and 14 months jail this month for urinating on a Jewish memorial.