Police are seeking witnesses to a violent act of vandalism early Tuesday morning that destroyed windows at the headquarters of a foundation that manages multiple Holocaust memorial sites.
The Foundation for Memorial Sites in Lower Saxony, in the town of Celle, oversees the memorials at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the Wolfenbüttel Prison, a major Nazi execution site, as places of commemoration and learning.
Police told German news media that an unknown number of perpetrators tore an information board from the building’s outside wall and used it to smash the windows. Elke Gryglewski, the foundation’s executive director, told the NDR broadcasting company that charges have been filed with the police.
Menachem Rosensaft, associate executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, who was born in the displaced person’s camp in Bergen-Belsen, said he was “appalled” by the attack, which he called “the latest in a spate of such vandalizations of German memorial centers and institutions devoted to Holocaust remembrance.”
Rise of right-wing extremism in Germany
Last week, a free library of Holocaust-related books near a Holocaust memorial in Berlin was destroyed in a fire that is alleged to be an arson. State police are investigating the incident.
Police have told news media that they have no evidence of political or other motivations in Tuesday’s attack, but some observers have suggested that recent political activism by the foundation may have drawn the attention of right-wing extremists.
The foundation recently joined a broad coalition of groups calling for a demonstration against the statewide political conference of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, to be held in Celle on Saturday and Sunday. The foundation’s headquarters had already caught the attention of some people who left political stickers at the site in recent days.
Michael Fürst, head of the Jewish Community of Lower Saxony, said on Wednesday that there had been online incitement against the foundation following its support for the protest.
Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil urged foundation’s employees “not to be intimidated” by the incident. Foundation staff have now intensified their call for people to join the protest, news reports said.
The weekend demonstration is scheduled to begin at the Celle train station on Saturday morning and will include a cultural program in front of the building where the AfD plans to hold its conference. Organizers told a Protestant news service they want to respond to the AfD’s “nationalist and racist agitation as well as antisemitism and Islamophobia” with “justice, appreciation and solidarity.”