Lithuania’s highest officials condemned the vandalism against two Jewish community centers.
The walls, doors and windows of the Jewish community center in Vilnius were spray-painted with a swastika and other anti-Semitic epithets on the night of Aug. 9, which was Tisha B’Av.
Shortly after, in the town of Panevezys, about 40 miles from the Lithuanian capital, swastikas were painted on a Jewish community center’s walls.
The condemnation by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas came after local and international Jewish officials called on the Lithuanian government to take a stronger stance against the growing number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country.
A police investigation is under way in the Vilnius case.
The Vilnius center’s managing director, Simonas Gurevicius, said by telephone that the local and national governments were too passive in responding to earlier vandalism. Though city workers on Monday did wipe away the graffiti, he said the “paint was easier to wipe away than the pain.”
Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of international relations, said the fact that the crimes were committed on Tisha B’Av – a day of fasting and great sadness in Jewish history – suggested that the vandals had a nuanced knowledge of Judaism. He added that handwriting at both sites was the same as from a similar defacement that took place in 2006.
“I’m sure the people who did that count themselves as heroes and patriots,” Gurevicius said.
Kirkilas said those who committed the acts “actually hate Lithuania and make harm to her.”
“It’s important to condemn what they did,” he said.
Speaking about the Vilnius vandalism, Adamkus said it was “not casual hooliganism. It is a destructive and sordid act” and a “harsh provocation against Lithuania.”