Dozens of graves at a Hebrew cemetery in Massachusetts were recently vandalized, prompting police to open a hate crime investigation.
Police found swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti at the Fall River cemetery and believe the incident occurred on March 16 or early March 17, according to a Tuesday social media post. Gravestones were defaced using a black marker and some were pushed over, police said.
On Tuesday, police estimated that 25 gravestones were vandalized, but that estimate more than doubled on Wednesday to 59, The (Fall River, Mass.) Herald News reports.
The paper previously reported the graves were marked with words such as “heil Hitler” and “Hitler was right.” One was reportedly tagged with “Oy vey! This is MAGA country.”
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The Anti-Defamation League New England issued a statement on Facebook condemning the crime: “The desecration of The Hebrew Cemetery of Fall River is an inexcusable act of antisemitic hatred in the place where we honor and remember the lives of our community members.”
The ADL has previously documented a recent rise in incidents motivated by anti-Jewish bias. An October 2018 report found an alarming increase in the amount of anti-Semitic content on social media in the lead-up to last year’s midterm elections.
Louis Gitlan, who has relatives buried at the cemetery, surveyed the damage and commented that many of the people buried at the Fall River cemetery faced persecution during their lives, the Herald News reports.
“What did they go through to get to this place, and finally be free? Then realize that they can’t escape it,” he told the newspaper.
Contributing: Aamer Madhani, Ryan W. Miller and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY; The Associated Press