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'It is very twisted': Oregon Holocaust Memorial vandalized with swastikas, other graffiti

Officers received a report of graffiti at the memorial on Sunday morning. They found similar graffiti on street signs and concrete barriers in the neighborhood.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Someone spray-painted swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti at the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Portland’s Washington Park over the weekend, police said.

Officers received a report of graffiti at the memorial on Sunday morning. Neo-Nazi sayings and symbols were scrawled across the stone wall of the memorial. They found similar graffiti on street signs and concrete barriers in the Southwest Portland neighborhood near the memorial, police said.

The outdoor memorial is located at 95205 SW Washington Way.

As of Monday evening, investigators said there is no suspect information and there have been no arrests.

Mayor Ted Wheeler denounced hate crimes, anti-Semitism and white supremacy via a tweet.

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Director Judy Margles views the memorial as a sacred space. 

"It is a place for contemplation. Thinking about the horrors that went on during the Holocaust: millions of lives murdered by the Nazis. But it is also a place of hope," Margles said.

The memorial was created by survivors to educate people and serve as a reminder of what hatred can do to society.

"It includes names of families who died in the war so it has personal meaning for many community members," Margles said.

That's why so many were appalled to learn someone defaced the memorial over the weekend.

"Anti-Semitism and hatred are still alive and well after all we've been through as a society and country," Rabbi Eve Posen, Congregation Neveh Shalom Associate Rabbi and Chair of the Oregon Board of Rabbis, told KGW. "That this is still happening, it's heartbreaking and heart-wrenching."

 Margles felt sick when police called her Sunday morning.

"It is very twisted," she said. "It's very visceral, I have to say, when you hear about something - I think my whole body just went numb. And I was shaking, my heart was pounding." 

Police quickly told the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau, and crews cleaned the graffiti Sunday.

"The intention was to deface something and instead a community came together," Posen said. 

Rather than divide us, Margles and Rabbi Posen say the vandalism had the opposite result. That hateful and divisive act led to love and unity. Right away, Portlanders asked how to help.

"There are lots of messages of support coming through," Margles added, "I see that one act of cowardice as turning into something quite wonderful today."

"It's not all the bad we've been seeing, the hurt we've been feeling, that there is still hope," Posen added.

Not only do Posen and Margles want them caught and held accountable, but they want whoever did this to become educated.

"To perhaps think about what the impact of their actions was and how perhaps they can learn about a different kind of community to live in and a different way of being in the world," Posen told KGW.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to e-mail crimetips@portlandoregon.gov and reference case number 21-117659.

Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 cash for information that leads to an arrest in any unsolved felony. Tipsters can remain anonymous. Report a tip online here.

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