Young demonstrators destroyed an exhibit about the expropriation of Jewish property in Nazi Germany.
Police have not ruled out anti-Semitic motives in Wednesday’s rampage in what appears to have been a peaceful protest gone awry.
The exhibit, “Betrayed and Sold: Jewish Businesses in Berlin 1933-1945,” was on display in the lobby of the Humboldt University in the former East Berlin.
Witnesses say the students forced their way into the building and ripped down posters and information stands. They left after 20 minutes. Three students were arrested; police are investigating.
Peter-Michael Haeberer, the head of the State Office of Criminal Investigation, told the Berliner Morgenpost that he believed the students had probably intended to attack the exhibit.
“Even someone with dyslexia has to recognize what this exhibit is about,” he said. “Anyone who tries to explain this incident away as general vandalism is resorting to a cheap excuse.”
The students had been taking part in a nationwide demonstration demanding better educational policies. Some 100,000 pupils marched peacefully in about 40 cities across Germany.
Humboldt University President Christoph Markschies also reported that he heard some of the teens shout anti-Israeli slogans. Damages to the exhibit and university property have been estimated at more than $45,000.
Lala Susskind, the head of Berlin’s Jewish community, told reporters she hoped those responsible would be swiftly punished.
A spokesman for the demonstrators, Niklas Wuchenauer, 16, told reporters it was regrettable that a few demonstrators discredited the entire protest. He said they were angry and were not motivated by anti-Semitism.
Another student leader, Lee Hielscher, 20, told the BZ daily, “We wanted to have a peaceful protest” and “we distance ourselves expressly from this action.” Hielcher also said “we regret the destruction.”