Boston’s New England Holocaust Memorial was targeted by a rock-throwing vandal for the second time in two months last night, when a teen shattered a glass panel etched with the numbers that Nazis tattooed on concentration camp victims, police said.
Police were called about 6:40 p.m. to the downtown landmark and said witnesses helped them identify a 17-year-old suspect.
The suspect’s name was not released because he is a juvenile. He is due to be arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court. Police were investigating the motive.
“It’s scary,” said Phoebe Melchiskey, 18, of Somerville. “I’m Jewish. We came down because we heard what happened and I wanted to light a candle.”
Melchiskey said she had just returned from a trip to Poland, where she visited the sites of Nazi death camps at Majdanek and Auschwitz.
“After seeing a pile of ashes and holding a human bone fragment in my hand, they’re more than just numbers to me,” she said. “Knowing that it’s real. It really happened. It could have happened to me … A lot of my family died in the Holocaust,” Melchiskey said.
In the earlier attack, James Isaac, 21, of Boston, who has a history of mental illness, was charged with destroying one of the memorial’s 132 panels with a rock on June 28. That panel was replaced with one of the spares that had been created in anticipation of damage — but never before needed in the memorial’s 22-year history.
“It’s incredibly disturbing … coming as it does two days after Holocaust survivors had to witness people marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., chanting Nazi slogans, and carrying Nazi flags,” said Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the group that manages the site — six 54-foot towers between Congress and Union streets.
“This is an unbelievable moment,” Burton said. “It’s utterly horrifying and disturbing and we’re trying to make sense of it.”
Police Commissioner William B. Evans said, “Clearly, this type of behavior will not be tolerated … it’s sad to see a young person choose to engage in such senseless and shameful behavior.”
Ahmed Shah and Mahnoor Bais were visiting Boston from the San Francisco area and walked by the scene.
“It’s terrible,” Shah said. “It’s disturbing that anyone would do that.”
Bais added, “The idea that these people feel comfortable coming out now, it just seems more and more frequent.”
John Medlar, an organizer of the controversial Boston Free Speech rally planned for Saturday on Boston Common, immediately distanced his group from the act, saying in a statement:
“We’ve just seen headlines that someone may have desecrated a local Holocaust memorial. We have no idea who did this, but to avoid any confusion, we completely denounce this criminal act.”
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