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February 26, 2022

Three Montgomery County cemeteries vandalized with swastikas, police say

Plymouth Township law enforcement officials found several gravestones defaced on Thursday, Feb. 24

Crime Vandalism
Cemetery Vandalism Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Three cemeteries in Montgomery County were vandalized with spray-painted swastikas on Thursday, Feb. 24, Plymouth Township Police say. Officials say that they may have found a suspect, but no further action has been taken.

Three cemeteries in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County were vandalized with swastikas on Thursday, Feb. 24, police revealed in a Facebook post. 

During the overnight hours between Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, Plymouth Township and Whitemarsh Township police say that at least one person desecrated grave sites at Saint Benedict Cemetery, Saint Matthews Cemetery, and Old Saint Matthews Cemetery. The incident was discovered at around 6 a.m. on Thursday. 

Plymouth Township Police Chief John Myrsiades told the Inquirer that the department began to review some of the surveillance footage near the cemeteries and believe they may have found a suspect. No arrests have been made. 

Myrsiades issued a statement on Thursday along with an image of the spray-painted swastikas, asking residents who may have any additional information to contact the Plymouth Township police department. 

"We are sickened by the hateful desecration of the Saint Benedict Cemetery, and are aggressively pursuing all leads," Mysiades wrote. "Please call us with any information on this case. We offer heartfelt support to all... families."  

St. Mary's Polish American Society, a nonprofit organization that celebrates and promotes Polish heritage throughout Montgomery County, said that some of the grave sites at Saint Benedict's Cemetery are home to Polish immigrants.

"Many of our ancestors from Poland buried at Saint Benedict's fled their beloved homeland and came to America to escape the hatred and persecution that the Nazis inflicted on them. Their memory deserves better than what they were subjected to [on Thursday]," Executive Director David Swedkowski said in a Facebook post. "Despite this terrible act of vandalism, something beautiful came out of it." 

The organization hosted a prayer group and offered to help assist the cemeteries in a clean-up effort. Officials with Saint Matthews Cemetery are overseeing the cleanup of its two grave sites, while the Polish American Society will host a clean-up of Saint Benedict's once the weather begins to improve. 

According to Montgomery County Commissioners, 1,347 of the gravesites in the vandalized cemeteries belong to veterans. Since 1920, County Commissioners have provided free flag holders for veteran graves. 

Those who need replacement holders are encouraged to contact the Montgomery County Office of Veteran's Affairs at (610) 278-3285 or complete this online application

Conshohocken Mayor Yaniv Aronson released a statement on his Facebook page condemning the vandalism and saying that all three of the impacted municipalities "have zero tolerance for bigotry, racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia." 

Aronson said that the police departments are working together on the active investigation. 

Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh and Vice Chair Kenneth Lawrence released a joint statement condemning the incident, and providing support to the families of those whose gravestones were defaced. 

"We are shocked by this despicable act of cowardice on our community where symbols of hate desecrated graves and monuments," Arkoosh and Lawrence said. "We denounce these acts of vandalism and stand in solidarity with our residents and communities affected by this horrific act. There is no room for hate of any kind in Montgomery County, and we will continue to stand against those who wish to inflict harm on our community." 

Anyone with information about the vandalism that took place at each of these cemeteries is asked to contact the Plymouth Township Police Department at (610) 279-1901.