Strangers equated the Star of David with the swastika on the doors where the Festival of Tolerance has been taking place.
On Monday, around five o’clock in the morning, a resident near the Jewish Cultural Center in Ljubljana heard quite loud voices of a group of people, but she couldn’t see them because her window faced towards the other side. The morning brought the answer: a group of vandals apparently targeted the doors of the centre and defaced them with an anti-Semitic message, correlating the Star of David with the swastika.
“The police are just downloading surveillance camera footage,” said Robert Baruh Waltl, president of the Liberal Jewish Community of Slovenia, director of the Jewish Cultural Center, and director of the festival that is currently taking place, the House of Tolerance/House of Others.
He confirmed this was the first case of vandalism during the current conflict between Hamas and Israel. In connection with this, the police are investigating suspicion of a criminal act with elements of incitement to hatred, violence, and intolerance. The centre condemns the act as unacceptable and condemnable, as the centre, as Waltl says, has nothing to do with the war in the Middle East or its policies.
“Do you know what’s behind these doors? The Holocaust Museum in Slovenia, a Jewish Museum, a Synagogue, an exhibition about the Anne Frank family. The annual House of Tolerance festival is in full swing,” he reacted to the night’s event. He described it as “pollution” that appeared on their doors in the morning. Even in our worst nightmares, we never imagined that we would ever see a freshly drawn swastika in one of the most peaceful European cities. Especially in such a context,” he added. Not even the slogan “Lest this never happen again” “protected” them. On the contrary, as they were able to determine in the center, the graffiti on their doors is “a very important proof that this is happening again” – stated the president.
They understand it as an attack on everyone “who lives in the prosperity of the free world.” As they emphasize, the Slovenian capital and the country “must never again experience the horrific experience that the Nazis did to our citizens 75 years ago.” “The Nazis and fascists murdered more than 90,000 Slovenian citizens, including almost 600 Jews,” reminds Waltl and calls for a joint “resistance to hatred and fanaticism” in our country. “This is not the Middle East – Israel and Palestine. This is our country. This is Slovenia,” he says.
Right Slovenia, or Ljubljana, has been the 9th International Festival of Tolerance venue since Monday. On this occasion, Waltl pointed to the wars raging in Europe and the Middle East, which coincide with this year’s festival. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a Western,” he said at the time. “It’s more of a tragedy in the old and very precise sense of the word.” Public support for peace and tolerance, as well as support for the sudden rise in anti-Semitism, can also be participation in festival events, he believes.
Focusing on the past can prevent us from accepting the future, believes Waltl, who sympathizes with all the victims in Gaza. It’s impossible to go back to the past to correct the mistakes that occurred, he believes: “But forging a path to future peace is possible.” Eighty years ago, the Nazis killed millions of Jews. Still, today, Jews and Germans are good friends, he recalled, adding that all wounds can heal if people come together: “The key is to seek healing, instead of using the past as an excuse for promoting violence and conflict.”
In history, not only Jews were discriminated against; hatred for marginalized groups is, says Waltl, felt even today. Many minority groups, such as LGBT, Roma, or other ethnic minorities, politically differently minded, and others, feel it. That’s why they want to remind the public of tolerance with the festival program and point out what happens when tolerance “is not the imperative of thinking and acting in society.”
On social networks, many have already condemned the night’s event. For example, the March 8 Institute wrote on its Facebook page that “equating religious communities with the actions of a criminal regime is unacceptable and controversial,” and “also the harmful inscriptions on the doors of the Jewish Center in Ljubljana” are equally unacceptable.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Slovenian Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance strongly condemn the hateful message that appeared this morning on the doors of the Jewish Cultural Center and Synagogue in Ljubljana on Križevniška Street. It is unacceptable for individuals to try to desecrate the dignity of Jews or any minority groups. In Slovenia, we must always actively strive for a society free of hate speech and acts that would be – so the ministry – directed against anyone. “Hateful symbols are not free expression of opinion and do not strengthen democracy, but hate speech extremely harms human dignity. It is our duty to always strongly condemn hate speech and continually fight against it,” said Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Tanja Fajon in response.
They add that the hateful message that appeared during the traditional Festival of Tolerance cannot and must not be a reflection of our society but must be “a great reminder that we must continue with concrete action for a tolerant society in a tolerant, committed, and active manner.”