(JTA) — Vandals defaced the monument in Jedwabne that commemorates the hundreds of Jews burned alive in a barn there by their Polish neighbors in July 1941.
Photographs in the Polish media Thursday showed anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas scrawled in big green letters on the monument in the eastern Polish town and on the surrounding wall. One slogan read, "No need to apologize for Jedwabne."
A decade ago, the publication of a book about the massacre, "Neighbors," by Jan T. Gross, prompted a national debate on Poland’s role in the Holocaust.
Media reports said a policeman on patrol discovered the attack Wednesday night.
The monument, which stands on the site of the barn where the Jews were killed, is not lit and stands on its own, away from town buildings.
On Friday, Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski condemned the defacement of the monument and apologized for the incident.
“Even if this was just simple stupidity or an immature outburst, we should pray that human sensitivity, our Christian sensitivity, was also expressed in the fact that we are able to say and repeat with deep respect — we’re sorry,” Komorowski said during a speech in the town of Cieszyn.
On Thursday, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski issued a statement condemning the vandalism.
"I utterly condemn these acts of criminality, alien to Polish tradition," he said. "There is no room for such behavior in Polish society — even if it is the work of but a small group of extremists. We stand in solidarity with all those who feel personally affected by these despicable acts. I am convinced that the perpetrators will be swiftly tracked down and face the full extent of the law with regard to their actions."
According to media reports, regional police in Bialystok, who are investigating the incident, are linking the attack to other apparent neo-fascist vandal attacks aimed at minority groups in the past few weeks in eastern and northeast Poland.
They include scrawled anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi symbols found on the former synagogue in the town of Orla on Aug. 10. Vandals also broke into the Islamic Center in Bialystok, trashed the ground floor and attempted to set the building on fire. The next day, bilingual signs in Polish and Lithuanian were found damaged in Punsk, a town near the border with Lithuania.