The only Anne Frank memorial in the United States was vandalized Tuesday, a distressing display of hate that has prompted a police investigation, officials said.
“It’s sad that this is becoming a statement of who and what our community is,” said Dan Prinzig, director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, which maintains the memorial in Boise, Idaho.
The memorial includes a life-sized bronze statue of Frank, which depicts her holding her diary and peering out the window of the secret annex in which she and her family spent 761 days hiding from Nazis before they were found and sent to concentration camps in 1944.
Stickers with swastikas and the words “We are everywhere” were found affixed to the diary, and another was pasted to a statue representing the “spiral of injustice.”
“Is this what we’re becoming?” Prinzig asked.
Another sticker was pasted over a photo of Bill Wassmuth, the center’s namesake. He was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood to focus on fighting white supremacists and the Aryan Nations, a neo-Nazi group that, at the time, was based in northern Idaho. Wassmuth died in 2002.
The defamation of the memorial, which Prinzig called a “stab to the heart,” has been a rallying cry for the community. Several community members asked Prinzig to hold a physical vigil, while others started fundraising drives, he said.
Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee called the vandalism “absolutely reprehensible” and said his agency has reached out to the Anti-Defamation League as part of its investigation.
“It does cause us concern,” Lee said. “We are committed to ferreting out … those who would foment hate in the community.”
This is not the first time the memorial has been vandalized since its 2002 dedication. It was also defaced over a series of days in 2017 when graffiti of anti-Semitic and racist slurs caused $20,000 in damage.
The damage is not only to the memorial itself, Prinzig said, but to the “psyche of the community.”
This is an “important moment in really beginning to question ourselves: Who are we and what [are we] doing to fight injustice?” he said.
Prinzig echoed the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, which he said are etched into the memorial.
“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press