Dozens of Graves Damaged by Children at Jewish Cemetery in Polish City of Wroclaw

Vandalized headstones at the Jewish cemetery in Wroclaw, Poland.

June 23, 2021

The Jewish cemetery in the southwestern Polish city of Wroclaw was badly vandalized last week by a group of 12-year-olds, who told police they wanted to use headstone slabs to make a fortress.

Over several days, the children destroyed or damaged 63 graves, including 20 on the day they were caught. Local police intervened after hearing loud hammering noises near the cemetery, where they discovered the group of five children smashing headstones with a hammer.

The suspects were later detained at a police station, where they were questioned in the presence of their parents.

While it is not clear antisemitic motivation was involved, the incident marked yet another shocking evolution in attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Poland in recent times.

In January this year, the walls of a Jewish cemetery near Auschwitz, which had been destroyed by the Nazis in World War Two and restored in the 1990s, were defaced with Nazi symbols including swastikas and SS bolts.

Last summer also saw a series of desecrations, including the smashing of around 20 Jewish headstones in the southern Polish city of Zabrze and the spray-painting of “AJ,” likely meaning “Anti-Jude” (“anti-Jew” in German) on the walls of another Jewish cemetery in the city of Tarnow, also in southern Poland.

Indeed, the Jewish cemetery of Wroclaw has itself been targeted in the past. In one case, in 2019, antisemitic vandals spray-painted “Jesus is king” on some of its walls.

The Jewish community of Wroclaw, also known as Breslau, is one of the oldest in east-central Europe, with one headstone in the cemetery dating back to 1203, the earliest evidence of Jewish life in Poland.

The community was almost entirely wiped out during the Holocaust.