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June 28, 2019

Philly police seeking man who vandalized Holocaust Memorial

The suspect etched two SS bolts – “a known Nazi symbol” – onto one pillar and tried to put a swastika on another

Police Vandalism
Holocaust Memorial Vandal Courtesy/Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation

The Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation shared surveillance footage of the man who allegedly vandalized a memorial with anti-Semitic imagery on June 16, 2019.

Philadelphia detectives are looking for a middle-aged white man who allegedly vandalized the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza along Ben Franklin Parkway on Father’s Day.

A Detective Bureau patrol alert, distributed internally but shared with PhillyVoice on Friday, states that the man etched the initials “RBM” and two SS bolts – “a known Nazi symbol” – into the memorial’s pillars just before 10 a.m. on June 16.

“There was also an attempt to etch a swastika into another pillar,” according to the patrol alert.

It described the suspect as a middle-aged white man wearing gray shorts, a gray T-shirt and blue sneakers who carried a green plastic bag. The suspect is considered to be armed and dangerous.

The Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza was unveiled last October on a triangle of land at 16th and Arch streets in Center City which, since 1964, had been home to the Monument to Six Million Jewish Martyrs. The monument was the first free, public dedication to the Holocaust in the United States.

Eszter Kutas, executive director of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, said the incident at the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza was deeply saddening, particularly because the vandalism, with such blunt imagery, struck at the memory of those lost in the Holocaust.

“While all instances of vandalism are shameful, we were particularly disturbed by the perpetrator’s use of SS bolts, a known Nazi symbol, to damage the Holocaust Memorial Plaza," she said. "Our plaza memorializes the millions that were killed 75 years ago and provides education around the universal lessons of the Holocaust. 

"This unfortunate incident, which was clearly committed by an individual harboring feelings of hatred, makes our mission all the more critical."

She said surveillance images from the plaza were shared with investigators.

"Both the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation and law enforcement agencies involved in this matter will not tolerate these behaviors," Kutas told PhillyVoice. "We fully intend to pursue appropriate action against the individual involved and seek the public’s help in identifying the person responsible for this hateful act.”

Jeremy Bannett, associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia, said the ADL is also concerned about the use of "SS Bolts," which are a "common white supremacist/neo-Nazi symbol."

"This incident comes at a time of elevated anti-Semitism," Barnett said. "In 2018, Pennsylvania witnessed 89 anti-Semitic incidents, the second-most of the past decade, and 40 percent higher than the statewide historic average."

He said this, and all similar acts of, bias should be taken "extremely seriously."

"We cannot allow hate to become normalized, or else we will only see more virulent expressions of bigotry." he said. "We thank the Philadelphia Police Department for investigating this incident, and urge all Philadelphians to remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate."

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact the Central Detective Division at 215-686-3093.

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