Jewish centre in Ljubljana defaced with swastika
The Jewish Cultural Centre in Ljubljana was found vandalised with a black swastika on 16 November in what is the first such incident since the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict on 7 October. The incident has drawn widespread condemnation.
The centre also hosts a Holocaust museum, a Jewish museum and a synagogue, while an exhibition on Ana Frank is currently on display there as part of the House of Tolerance festival.
"Never in our worst nightmares could we have imagined that we would ever see a freshly painted swastika in one of Europe's most peaceful cities," Robert Baruh Waltl, head of the Liberal Jewish Community of Slovenia, and director of the centre, wrote in response.
While the mission of the centre and affiliated institutions is to make sure that attacks on Jews will never happen again, "we have just received a very important piece of evidence that it is happening again", he added.
Noting that over 90,000 Slovenians citizens, including nearly 600 Jews, were murdered by the Nazis and fascists, Waltl said "this is an attack on all of us who live in the prosperity of the free world".
Calling for resistance to hate and fanaticism in Slovenia, he said "this is not the Middle East - Israel or Palestine. This is our state. This is Slovenia", and urged people to attend the ongoing festival of tolerance en masse.
The hateful graffiti on the door of the Jewish centre has met with widespread condemnation, including from the ministers of foreign and interior affairs, the Slovenian delegation at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the German Embassy.
"Hate symbols are not free expression of opinion and they do not strengthen democracy. Hate speech is extremely damaging to human dignity. It is our duty to condemn hate speech in the strongest possible terms and to fight against it unceasingly," wrote Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon.
While police investigation of the incident is under way, photos posted by the news portal of RTV Slovenija show the swastika and the star of David with an equals sign between them have already been removed from the Jewish centre's door.
Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar strongly condemned the incident and "incitement of any hate and intolerance of the Jewish community in Slovenia".
Convinced the perpetrator will be found as soon as possible, he said that police presence was beefed up around Jewish cemeteries and synagogues immediately after the war broke out in the Middle East to prevent such incidents.
German Ambassador to Slovenia Adrian Pollmann wrote that the desecration of the Jewish community building "deeply disgusts and repulses" him, stressing that nothing justified the use of the swastika, which is a symbol of the destruction of Jewish life.
"What is happening in the Middle East is terrible. Many innocent people have lost their lives on both sides. But this has nothing to do with Jewish life and the Jewish community in Slovenia," he said.
Members of the diplomatic corps gathered in front of the Jewish synagogue to express solidarity with the Jewish community in Slovenia.