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Antisemitic graffiti on the “Visit Novi Sad” builboard

Example narrative (What do they say or do?)

In December 2020, in Novi Sad, an unknown person or a group painted a graffiti “Judenfrei” and a crossed-out Star of David on the billboard with a picture of the Novi Sad synagogue. The City authorities reacted swiftly, and the graffiti was painted over the same day. Two months later, in January 2021, just a day before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration, the same billboard was targeted again with antisemitic graffiti. This time the offender(s) painted a crossed-out Star of David, the “Celtic Cross,” and the abbreviation “SS” (SS refers to the Nazi military units Schutzstaffel.) The authorities painted over these symbols promptly, too.

Antisemitic context explained (What does this actually mean?)

The billboard with a picture of the Novi Sad synagogue is part of the promotional campaign “Visit Novi Sad” by the city authorities. The Novi Sad synagogue was selected as one of the City’s main cultural monuments and symbols, multiculturalism, and tolerance. It represents the Jewish community as one of the ethnic and religious groups which are a natural and inseparable part of the City of Novi Sad. Also, the picture of the Novi Sad synagogue is a reminder of the enormous losses the Jewish community of Novi Sad suffered during the Holocaust.

The graffiti aims to challenge and diminish all elements mentioned above:

  1. Novi Sad as a city of tolerance and synagogue as one of the city’s main cultural
    monuments,
  2. Jews as a natural and inseparable part of the city,
  3. The Holocaust, its scope and consequences for the Jewish community and the city of Novi Sad.

“Judenfrei” is a term of Nazi origin to designate an area that has been “cleansed” of Jews during the Holocaust. This term is intrinsic to Nazi anti-Semitism, and the Nazis used it in Germany even before World War II. Painting “Judenfrei” on the billboard represents a direct death-threat to the local Jewish community, while celebrating the Nazism, its (antisemitic) ideology, the Holocaust and the perpetrators and murderers who committed the killings during the Holocuats. Doing this in connection to
commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is particularly cruel and aim to disrespect and hurt the victims and their families even more.

Consequences (Why is this harmful?)

Such graffiti represents a genuine threat to the local Jewish community. The goal is to bully, intimidate, frighten, and worry the Jewish community. At the same time, such action aims to propagate the extreme far-right and neonazi moovements and groups,
and their ideologies, in particular towards younger generations.

Personalize (How does it impact a Jewish person or a community)

The consequences of such actions are concern, fear, and anxiety among individuals, families, and the entire Jewish community. As a result, many might feel reluctant to disclose or express their Jewish identity, tradition, or culture in fear of being identified as Jews and bullied or exposed to violence.

Social impact (Why is this harmful for the society?)

It leads to spreading hate and intolerance. Such actions instigate terror and call for violence. Jews feel threatened and reluctant to freely express their opinions, culture, and identity, which represents a violation of their human and civil rights. This way, the overall democracy in the society is threatened.

Debunking response (What to do? How to react? Options)

  • Rapport the incident to the relevant authorities,
  • React, counter the narrative, stand against it,
  • Engage in discussion and explain why this is wrong,
  • Education about antisemitism and anti-Jewish stereotypes – in particular, education of police, civil servants, media professionals.