“We left Europe to come to a free country like the U.S. where we thought this would not happen,” John Rinde, a Jew who emigrated from Poland as a child to escape Nazism, told FOX 13 of Tampa.
Police were investigating the crime after officers on patrol early Thursday noticed a swastika and the phrase “Jews are guilty” graffitied on the wall of the museum but had yet to arrest any suspects.
City workers painted over the hateful writing later that day, FOX 13 reported.
“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, this attack on the Museum is not just repugnant. It is personal,” Michael Igel, the museum’s board chair, told the station. “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.”
Toni Rinde, John Rinde’s wife, also escaped Poland as a child. The couple, who lost 30 family members in the Holocaust, now live in Largo, Florida.
“If you hate me, you are going to hate everybody else,” she told FOX 13. “That is the very beginning of the destruction of our human way of life.”
The U.S. has seen a rise in anti-Semitic acts since the clashes between Israel and Gaza this month but it had already been rising.
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded more than 1,200 incidents, up 10% from the previous year, The New York Times reported.
A Jewish man who was beaten on the streets of New York City and Jewish diners who were subjected to anti-Semitic harassment while dining outside in Los Angeles were just two of 222 incidents reported to the ADL across the country during the Israel-Hamas conflict.
They are “literally happening from coast to coast, and spreading like wildfire,” Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the ADL told The Times. “The sheer audacity of these attacks feels very different.” The most recent incidents appeared to be more often perpetuated by pro-Palestinian progressives, he said.
“For the first moment or two, I cried,” Toni Rinde told FOX 13 of the graffiti. “I guess regular, normal reaction, and then I said this is ridiculous. I am not going to cry, that is what they want. We have to yell and scream and teach against hatred.”
The graffiti is being investigated as a hate crime.