Saturday, June 27, 2020

Holocaust Memorial Statue Vandalized in Skokie, Illinois, Early Monday Morning on June 3, 1987.

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Completed Memorial.
SKOKIE, Ill. — Less than a day after residents of Skokie and others reverently dedicated a bronze monument to victims of the Nazi Holocaust on June 2, 1987, they returned Monday to the village green to ponder why the sculpture had been defaced with anti-Semitic symbols.

The monument—which includes a bronze sculpture of a Jewish resistance fighter, a mother holding her slain child, and a little boy clinging to an elderly rabbi—was sprayed with silver-painted swastikas and the words ''Liars'' and ''Jews Lie.''

Police said vandals sprayed the graffiti on the statue and its black marble base between 4 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., barely 12 hours after hundreds of Holocaust survivors, their relatives, neighbors, and elected officials had unveiled the monument in the green space between the public library and the village hall.

Shortly after radio stations started reporting the vandalism Monday morning, people began to visit the park. Others stopped by to see the monument because they had read about its dedication, only to find it had been defaced. Some cursed under their breaths, some touched the monument trying to rub the paint away. Many wept. Light rain did not keep away a constant stream of old and young people of all religions.
Tema Bauer, who lost her right arm in the Auschwitz concentration camp, weeps in front of the defaced Holocaust monument.
Charles Lipshitz, chairman of the Holocaust Monument Committee, said he visited the scene, and “the whole monument was defaced with swastikas.”

The monument`s sculptor, Ed Chesney, was just turning his blue van into the library parking lot when he saw the paint on the statue he had spent the last year creating. ''I didn`t believe it,'' said Chesney, 65, of Detroit. ''I had planned a morning of photo-shooting. Inside, I am just torn apart. I didn`t cry, but it is like giving birth to a child. It took an entire year. And to see what has been done to it, it makes me sick.'' Chesney took a can of paste wax and a ladder from his van and climbed high on the memorial to begin removing some of the paint. But he stopped after a number of people told him not to, suggesting that the symbols should remain for at least a day to remind people that anti-Semitism exists in the U.S.

''Let the people know that we have Nazis right here,'' said Avram Szwajger, president of Sheerit Hapleitah (Remnant of the Holocaust), the Chicago area Holocaust survivors` organization that raised $150,000 ($342,000 today) for the monument.

''This is nothing new to us,'' Szwajger said. ''We have seen it in Europe.''

Harvey Schiller, another Skokie resident, said, ''I think they should leave it for a few days. Otherwise, people will say it really did not happen. I want to bring my children here to see this, so they`ll know these things can happen.''

The entire Skokie police force had been on duty during the dedication, and the monument area had been patrolled by squad cars on Sunday night and Monday morning, as well as during the week before the unveiling, said Officer Ron Baran, of the Skokie police crime-prevention unit. Still, he said, vandals ''had plenty of cover from the trees and bushes around the statue.'' A police officer discovered the graffiti first, Baran said.
Details of the Memorial Figures
A police technician sent to the scene could find no paint cans or evidence linking the defacing to a specific person or organization, Baran said, and no one had called the department to threaten the action or to claim responsibility for it later.

Skokie Mayor Albert J. Smith—a Catholic who had been praised Sunday for his opposition to a planned neo-Nazi march on the green in 1978—was visibly shaken by the overnight events. ''Everything that we have learned about this type of event says we should clean it up as quickly as possible,'' he told several dozen people near the monument.

When a number of people objected to the immediate removal of the paint, Smith called a meeting for Monday afternoon with local leaders involved in the monument project as well as the village manager, the police chief, and federal authorities to decide what should be done.

''We are talking about a couple of idiots, a couple of punks who come out only in the middle of the night,'' Smith said. ''Look what happened yesterday. It was a beautiful brotherhood. What happened overnight was terrible.''

Bert Gast, 62, an Evanston artist who drew the original designs for the monument, said Skokie should install lights around the statue as a preventive measure. ''People who would do this are like rats and cockroaches,'' he said. ''They only come out in the dark, they run from the light.''

''This action demonstrates that the attitudes that led to the Holocaust are not dead,'' said Michael Kotzin, Chicago regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of B`nai B`rith. ''This monument was highly visible and well-publicized. It was a target, and [the vandalism] was an easy act to commit. It is an effective way to upset people.'' Kotzin said similar vandalism had been committed to Holocaust monuments in San Francisco, Denver, and other cities.

Rev. Daniel Montalbano, who represented the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago at Sunday`s dedication ceremony, said, ''We can only express anger and horror that the monument was defaced and desecrated so soon after its dedication.

''Cardinal [Joseph] Bernardin, on behalf of the Catholic people of Chicagoland, grieves with our Jewish brothers and sisters at this offense,'' said Father Montalbano, assistant director of the archdiocesan Office of Human Relations and Ecumenism (promoting unity among the world's Christian Churches).

Those upset most may have been the people who lived through the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II. Village officials estimate that 7,000 of Skokie`s 69,000 residents are Holocaust survivors. They and their relatives made up the majority of the dedication audience Sunday.

Chicago Tribune, June 3, 1987
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

VISIT - Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, Illinois, 60077

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