A. Threats and Vandalism at Home
Perpetrators of antisemitic violence and threats often targeted Jewish families in their homes or in communal areas, vandalizing automobiles, breaking windows, daubing threatening graffiti, or smearing doors with excrement. Everyday harassment included epithets directed at family members as they went to and from their houses, being pelted with missiles, and aggressive pounding on the doors and windows of family homes. Mezuzahs (cases holding parchments inscribed with Hebrew verses that are fixed to the doors of many observant Jews) were also vandalized.
The majority of reports of incidents involving vandalism of homes and personal property came from Western Europe and North America, where official and community-based monitoring and reporting systems were available. Human Rights First is aware of incidents in which families were targeted for harassment and vandalism in their homes in France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Representative examples include:
- In the Russian Federation, on June 13, 2007 vandals sprayed graffiti on the home of a Jewish woman in Murmansk.
- In Canada, in June 2007, attackers broke into the home of a Jewish family in Bowmanville, Ontario, and daubed swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti on the walls.
- In the United Kingdom, on April 1, 2007, vandals attacked a Jewish home in London, identifiable by a mezuzah, and smeared excrement on the front door.
Jewish institutions have been particularly susceptible to attacks. Centers of Jewish life became the main targets for those seeking to express their hatred and strike a symbolic blow against Jews as a people. Places of worship, burial grounds, and Jewish community centers were the usual sites of antisemitic violence. Vandals and arsonists attacked synagogues, cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials throughout the region.
Human Rights First is aware of over 40 attacks on synagogues in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Latvia, Poland, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Serbia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States in the period covered by the report. Examples include:
- In Belgium, the Machsike Hadass Synagogue in Antwerp was pelted with stones in a series of incidents beginning on December 4, 2007. The stone-throwers, who gathered on a nearby railway embankment, broke numerous windows.
- In Copenhagen, Denmark, the Krystalgade Synagogue was vandalized on the night of January 21, 2007, with two windows smashed by rocks.
- In Daugavpils, Latvia, vandals on February 2, 2007, threw a large stone through the window of a synagogue that opened there in 2006.
- In Switzerland, on May 24, 2007, arsonists set alight Geneva’s modern Hekhal Haness Synagogue, seriously damaging the building.
- In Serbia, vandals sprayed a swastika on the façade of the Novi Sad Synagogue on March 17, 2007.
The desecration of Jewish graves and memorials continued to occur on a widespread basis. Grave markers and memorials to the war dead and victims of the Holocaust were smashed, daubed with graffiti, or fouled with excrement. Hundreds of tombstones marking Jewish graves were defaced with graffiti, toppled, or shattered. Attackers caused wholesale destruction in Jewish cemeteries, singling out the graves marked with a Jewish star in public burial places. Human Rights First has reviewed over 60 attacks on cemeteries and Holocaust memorials, in Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Examples include:
- In Armenia, on December 23, 2007, in the capital, Yerevan, vandals desecrated a memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the city’s Aragast Park, daubing it with a swastika and black paint.
- In Belarus, several attacks were reported in 2007. In February, vandals in Minsk smashed the cenotaph that is part of the monument marking the site of the murder of Jews from Bremen in the Minsk ghetto. In June, vandals damaged four Jewish gravestones in a cemetery in Mahilyow, where previous attacks had been reported. In October, vandals damaged fifteen graves in Babruysk, and daubed antisemitic graffiti and a swastika on cemetery gates.
- In the Czech Republic, in February, unknown attackers in Ĉeská Lípa vandalized a memorial to Jews who died there in a death march to the Schwarzheide concentration camp in 1945. Bronze plaques and Jewish stars, as well as a bronze menorah commemorating the dead were stolen.
- In Hungary, in September 2007, vandals in Gödöllő, outside Budapest, sprayed antisemitic slogans on a Hungarian memorial to the Holocaust; the train carriage established as a mobile memorial in April 2006 had been on display throughout Hungary.
- In Arezzo, Italy, vandals described as neo-Nazis chose January 25, 2007, International Holocaust Memorial Day, to mutilate a hilltop olive tree that memorializes the site of an 18th century Jewish cemetery. Vandals cut all the branches from the tree and left posters with swastikas.
- In Moldova, a guard was assaulted after witnessing the daylight desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Chisinau by five young people. Police said they had initiated an investigation.
- In Poland, in August 2007, vandals at the Jewish Cemetery in Częstochowa daubed 100 tombstones with antisemitic graffiti. Police said at the time that a criminal investigation had been opened.
- In Portugal, on September 26, 2007, vandals spray-painted 12 gravestones in a Lisbon Jewish cemetery with swastikas and antisemitic epithets and disturbed a fresh grave that had no marker. Two young men described as skinheads were detained by police who were alerted by a cemetery guard. It is not known whether the two were charged and tried for the crime.
In Romania, vandals on February 10 and 11, 2007 desecrated dozens of tombstones and graves at the Cimitirul Mozaic Jewish cemetery in Bucharest.