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Holocaust survivor’s visit to NY school followed by appearance of Swastika graffiti

A week after Holocaust survivor Judy Altmann’s appearance at a New York school, the occasion was marred by the appearance of Swastika graffiti in the school’s bathroom.

Mrs Altmann visited  John Jay High School in Cross River two weeks ago. On Monday, a week after her visit, a Swastika was found scrawled in the bathroom.

One student, Sophe Eberhardt, found the appearance of the graffiti particularly disheartening, saying “It’s a subject that’s really, really dark…after everything they showed us, prejudice and racism still exist at our school”.

Despite the fact that a teenage student can tell that the graffiti represents the presence of antisemitism in the school, the Superintendent has written off the incident as simply being the result of “disruptive” pupils. This is perhaps not surprising, as it is unlikely that an official responsible for the school system would want to concede that there is a possibility that there are antisemitic beliefs being harboured by students. However, the fact that the students could hear Mrs Altmann’s story – which would have included her  recounting going through the infamous gates at Auschwitz, seeing people she knew being selected for extermination in the gas chambers, and being liberated whilst infected with Typhus and close to death – and yet still go on to etch the symbol of Nazism in the school bathroom.

In any case, it is wrong to assume that Swastika graffiti is merely the result of “disruptive” pupils, but when set against the context of rising antisemitism and the visit of a Holocaust survivor, it is far too permissive to assume that this is merely a case of misbehaviour. This is even more so the case as similar graffiti was found on the school’s property last year.

The Superintendent nonetheless said that the school was redoubling its efforts to find the perpetrators.