(JTA) — A Holocaust memorial was vandalized in the Greek city of Thessaloniki for the second time in two weeks.
In Tuesday’s incident, the monument on the campus of Aristotle University was smeared in blue paint and had a cross painted on it.
Unveiled in 2014, the monument commemorates the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, on which the university is built, and is dedicated in memory of the Jewish students who were killed in Nazi death camps.
The university had the paint cleaned off the monument — a series of gravestones in a bed of grass next to a broken menorah — and condemned the vandalism in a statement, calling it an “unacceptable action.” It said education is “the solution to religious fanaticism and bigotry.”
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki in its condemnation called the vandalism an “insult” to the monument. The statement noted “the necessary and successful efforts made by our Community, in cooperation with the authorities and institutions in our city and homeland, to combat racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance and fanaticism while restoring and promoting the history of Thessaloniki and its aspects on the centuries-old Jewish presence.”
Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the Jews’ expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” the city was the center of Ladino culture in the region.
Fewer than 2,000 of the city’s prewar Jewish population of 55,000 survived the Holocaust.
During the Nazi occupation, the Germans destroyed the cemetery, using the grave markers for construction material.