Historic Jewish graves desecrated in Auckland

October 19, 2012 by Miriam Bell
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Around twenty Jewish graves in a historic central Auckland cemetery have been desecrated with antisemitic graffiti at some point in the last 48 hours.

Swastikas and graffiti

Fifteen of the graves had large black swastikas sprayed on them, while others were covered with the number “88”. One grave was sprayed with “f*** Israel”, while another said “don’t f*** with us”. There did not appear to be any structural damage to the graves – some of which are over 130 years old.

The desecration was discovered this [Friday] morning, but police said they thought the attack could have occurred at any time since Wednesday afternoon.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told J-wire through his spokesman: “The vandalism is appalling.  Desecration of graves is to be condemned.”

Auckland Jewish Council president, Stephen Goodman, said the attack was a wanton act of antisemitic vandalism which was offensive and unacceptable to all New Zealanders.

“The cemetery has been subject to previous acts of senseless damage, but these were not specifically targeted at the Jewish Community. This activity is of a significantly greater concern to all of us and, in particular, Jews. We can only hope that it is an isolated incident and not a sign of changes to our society.”

Goodman said the police are taking the matter very seriously as it is both a hate crime as well as vandalism. “The Jewish Council has faith that they will be pursuing the offense with due diligence. The hope is that the offenders will be caught and prosecuted with the full force of the law.”

He added that the Auckland Chevra Kadisha and Benevolent Society had already been in discussions with the council regarding security on the site, but that the chair of the Waitemata Local Board had now assured him that “the issue of security will be revisited and given a higher priority”.

Graves with slogans

Ugly message

Embassy of Israel spokesperson, Patricia Deen, said the embassy condemned the vile desecration of the graves in Auckland.

“Sixty seven years after the liberation of the Jewish people from the death camps and ghettos of Europe, expressions of blind hatred for Jews and for the sole Jewish state resurface. This is clearly the action of a handful of vandals, motivated by hatred and ignorance, who certainly do not represent the opinion of New Zealanders.”

She added that the embassy trusted New Zealand’s law enforcement agencies would find the vandals and bring them to justice.

New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, said he was saddened and sickened by the attack. “Such an example of antisemitism and racism is thankfully rare in New Zealand. But I am sorry that the Jewish community has had to experience this again. I know that New Zealanders of all faiths and ethnicities will feel the same as I do and offer their support to the Jewish community.”

De Bres praised the Auckland Council for immediately swinging into action on repairing the damage to the graves.

Meanwhile, police said there was a CCTV camera close to the desecrated grave and, although they were unsure whether the vandalism had been captured by it, they were looking through footage. They have also made a public appeal for information.

Director of Chabad New Zealand Rabbi Mendel Goldstein added: “This was a deliberate and senseless criminal act by hate-filled cowards. Racism and the desecration of graves will not be tolerated by the good people of this great country. We, as a nation, need to serve as the voice for the voiceless victims by bringing the perpetrates to justice. We have every confidence in our world class law-enforcement agencies who are capable and committed to hunting down these criminals and bringing them to justice.”

Although such antisemitic incidents are rare in New Zealand, in 2004 two separate and particularly extensive attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Wellington gained international attention.

Editor’s Note: “88” represents the eight letter in the alphabet – “H” . So 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.


One Response to “Historic Jewish graves desecrated in Auckland”
  1. Shirlee. says:

    Thanks Editor. I had never heard that before and wondered what it represented.

    How stupid though to show their hand in saying that they were unsure whether the vandalism had been captured by CCTV.

    They should have made a point of saying they have them on video.

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