Vandals desecrate Holocaust memorial in Ukrainian Jewish cemetery

Police say a World War II Jewish burial site has been vandalized in western Ukraine. A police spokesman in the town of Rivne (also called Rovno) was quoted by the ‘Associated Press’ as saying that Wednesday night, several unidentified assailants broke a memorial plaque and street lamps at a site commemorating the killing of 17,500 Jews during the Holocaust. The perpetrators had used the metal parts from the broken street lamps to compose insulting phrases and lay them out on the site. Police in the city, around 350 kilometers west of the capital Kiev, are investigating.

The broken street lights were laid on the ground and arranged to spell out insulting phrases. Local Jewish community leader Hennady Frayerman called the incident “horrific.” Some 1.4 million of Soviet Ukraine’s 2.4 million Jews were executed, starved to death or died of disease during the Nazi German occupation of the country in World War II. In Rivne, many mass executions took place.

On Friday, the European soccer championships held in Ukraine and Poland  kicked off, one of the biggest sport events in Europe this year. Earlier this week, a BBC program reported about wide-spread racism and anti-Semitism among fans in both countries. People were shown giving the Hitler salute in stadiums, black players were subjected to monkey chants, and anti-Semitic attitudes and violence toward supporters of Asian origin are widespread, according to the BBC program.

In recent years, a number of violent anti-Jewish incidents were recorded in Ukraine. In 2010, a yeshiva student was brutally murdered in Kiev. In March of this year, a Holocaust memorial was desecrated in the city of Lviv. In April, a Ukrainian yeshiva student was attacked by anti-Semites as he left a synagogue in Kiev and was inflicted with life-threatening injuries. He later regained consciousness after receiving treatment in Israel in what doctors termed a miraculous recovery.

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