St. Pete Police investigate hate graffiti at Holocaust Museum
'Clearly, our society still has a long way to go.'

Holocaust Museum Graffiti
The graffiti left the words "The Jews are guilty," surrounded by swastikas.

The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating hate graffiti left at the Florida Holocaust Museum from Wednesday night.

The graffiti left the words “The Jews are guilty,” surrounded by swastikas. In response to the antisemitic language and symbols, the Police Department is investigating the situation as a hate crime, according to a news release from the museum.

“This act of hatred demonstrates that the work of the Florida Holocaust Museum is more important than ever,” Elizabeth Gelman, the museum’s executive director, said in a statement. “We remain committed to our vital mission to prevent future genocides and educate people about the dangers of antisemitism and other forms of racism and hatred.”

The St. Pete museum is one of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, honoring the memory of the millions of individuals who suffered or died in the Holocaust.

“Clearly, our society still has a long way to go,” Gelman said in a statement. “The Museum deeply appreciates the responsiveness and professionalism of the St. Petersburg Police Department and its dedicated officers.”

The hateful, antisemitic remarks left on the museum walls contribute to a rising trend of swastika graffiti. Reports of antisemitic crimes have been increasing since 2015, according to ProPublica’s Documenting Hate Project, which presents FBI data. Most of these incidents involved swastikas drawn or carved in public places, the project states. 

Antisemitic vandalism is also on the rise in Florida. According to the state’s Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents rose 40% from 2019 to 2020, and the organization recorded 30 occurrences of vandalism in 2020 compared to 24 in 2019. 

“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, this attack on the Museum is not just repugnant,” Michael Igel, chairman of the museum’s board, said in a statement. “It is personal. The lessons of the Holocaust have not yet been learned, but the Museum and the broader community who supports our vital work will never be intimidated by cowardly vandals, nor will we be deterred from our mission.”

Florida political leaders are also responding to the vandalism.

Sen. Rick Scott tweeted in response to the incident, saying “These disgusting anti-Semitic acts must end NOW. I’ll always stand with Florida’s Jewish community and pray that those responsible for this despicable act of hatred are swiftly brought to justice.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is also a 2022 gubernatorial candidate, responded to news of the incident via Twitter, and released a statement.

“This act of antisemitic hate and bigotry on the walls of Florida’s tribute to the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust is disgusting and reprehensible,” Crist said in the statement. “These symbols of hate have no place in our Sunshine City, home to so many Holocaust survivors and their descendants. The perpetrators who committed this crime must be apprehended swiftly and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis replied to a post of the news, writing, “This is absolutely disgusting and exactly why I issued a proclamation yesterday condemning all forms of anti-semitism. We must work together to protect all Floridians from hate.”

State Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, called the act “Disgusting,” in a Twitter post. Neighboring Rep. Michele Rayner also posted about the vandalism.

“I am appalled to find out that the Florida Holocaust Museum was vandalized and subject of a hate crime,” Rayner, a Pinellas County Democrat, posted in a tweet. “The work of the Museum in our city is more important than ever to educate the public about anti-semitism, equality, and acceptance.”

Rep. Ben Diamond, who is also running a Congressional campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, responded to the incident in a statement.

“I am outraged and heartbroken by this despicable act of anti-Semitic vandalism. This hateful message is particularly upsetting, and it demonstrates how much work is left to be done by all of us who value all human life and stand against bigotry,” Diamond said in a statement. “The Florida Holocaust Museum is a vital leader in our community in educating everyone about the dangers of antisemitism, and this crime reminds us all to remain vigilant and raise our voices against all forms of bigotry, racism and hate.’’

Delray Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman wrote, “Repulsive. We all must do more to make sure that hate has no haven in our beautiful, diverse state. Whether that’s strengthening our hate crimes laws, condemning bigotry whenever it rears its ugly head, or increasing education and awareness — we can and must do better.”

 

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman also responded via Twitter to the vandalism of the museum, saying, “Even St. Pete isn’t immune to the hate that exists in our society. We stand with our Jewish community.”

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]



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