A suburban Chicago Holocaust memorial, dedicated Sunday afternoon, was defaced with spray-painted swastikas and defamatory phrases before daybreak Monday. Police in the suburb, Skokie, focus of a confrontation between Holocaust survivors and neo-Nazis in 1978, are investigating the crime, but have no suspects.
The vandalism took place sometime between 4 and 6 a.m. Monday, according to Michael Kotzin, regional director of the Greater Chicago Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. A routine police patrol discovered it at 6:15. Kotzin said the perpetrators must have been hiding in bushes and acted quickly. He did not rule out the desecration being the work of teenagers, exhibiting “hostility and aggression. Often, these young people know they can hurt people,” Kotzin said.
However, he confirmed the existence of various hate groups operating in the Chicago area, with splinter groups ranging in size between two and six persons each, espousing neo-Nazi ideology. There have been a few reports of anti-Semitic literature and fliers. But Kotzin said ADL found a decrease in anti-Semitic activities in the Chicago area from 23 in 1985 to 14 in 1986.
FIVE BRONZE FIGURES
The bronze monument is located on the village green between Skokie Village Hall and the public library. It features five figures: a mother holding a dead child, a male child embracing an observant male Jew, and above them with arms spread, a male resistance fighter. On each figure, swastikas were sprayed in silver paint. Over the words honoring “the underground resistance and the U.S. Armed Forces who helped defeat the scourge of Nazism” was painted the word “Liar.”
The monument, the work of Detroit artist Edward Chesney, was built after a three-and-a-half-year fundraising effort by the Holocaust Monument Committee, established by the Holocaust Survivors of Metropolitan Chicago. Of Skokie’s population of 69,000, about half are Jews, an estimated 7,000 of whom are Holocaust survivors. Many of them helped to put Skokie into the national eye when they opposed a planned neo-Nazi march through Skokie streets in 1978. After legal challenges to the march organizers, who were affiliated with the National Socialist Party of America, a small demonstration was held instead in a Chicago park.
Mayor Albert Smith, who was Mayor in 1978 during the well-known neo-Nazi incident, released a statement about the vandalism, saying: “I, and the citizens of Skokie, abhor this criminal act. We believe that this highlights the need for us all to never forget.”
A $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible was offered by the American Jewish Committee, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. The three groups released a joint statement saying: “This incident not only represents a violent assault on public property, but it defiles and trivializes the suffering of the victims of one of the most monstrous evils committed during this century. It is especially painful for the many Holocaust survivors who live in the Skokie area, for it is a tragic reminder that hate and bigotry continue to poison our community.”
Monday evening and again Tuesday afternoon, Jewish religious services were held at the memorial. Clean-up of the vandalism is scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Kotzin noted that more people have seen the memorial since the vandalism than who came to the dedication Sunday.
Mordechai Levy, leader of the Jewish Defense Organization, told JTA that the group has “several dozen people” in Chicago who are going to patrol the nearby synagogue and Jewish institutions “to make sure the incident does not repeat itself.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.