Police in Berlin, Germany, have arrested a man accused of attempting to burn down the city’s Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism.
The 63-year-old suspect, whose name has not been released, is accused of throwing a burning object at the concrete memorial on Saturday in an attempt to set it on fire.
He is also accused of sticking pieces of paper with Bible verses and Christian references on the memorial, according to police.
That same man is suspected in additional arson attacks, including attempting to set fire to a box of books on Nazism that was part of a Berlin memorial known as “Platform 17” at the Grunewald railway station, which is dedicated to Jewish people who were deported to concentration camps under Nazi rule.
He reportedly left a letter nearby expressing anti-Semitic views, according to the English-language German magazine Exberliner.
He is also suspected in an attempted arson of a lesbian club in Neukölln, leaving behind two pieces of paper with a modified quotation from the Bible condemning homosexuality.
Pieces of paper left at or near all three sites were signed by “Kassandros Berolinensis,” according to the newspaper Taz, which has reported that there have been eight similar incidents involving letters signed by “Kassandros” since January.
The suspect was reportedly arrested at his home, reportedly admitting to committing the acts when questioned by police, reports NBC News.
A security guard claimed to have seen the alleged arson attempt on the memorial, located on the edge of Tiergarten, a public park in the heart of Berlin, close to the main monument for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
The guard alerted police, but the suspect was able to elude arrest.
The Memorial to Homosexuals, which opened to the public in 2008, is dedicated to the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 LGBTQ people sent to concentration camps under the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.
It features a small window where visitors can watch a video loop of same-sex couples kissing, which may have triggered the suspect. The monument was previously defaced in 2019 when vandals painted over that window.
German Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth condemned the vandalism and urged Germans to “stand together against enemies of democracy.”
“Wherever we encounter hate and hate speech, we must not accept it in silence,” she wrote Tuesday on the platform formerly known as Twitter. “‘Never again’ must not be just lip service.”
The LSVD gay rights association denounced the vandalism, calling it an “incitement of hate.” The group also expressed shock and dismay over the vandalism both at the gay memorial and the “Platform 17” memorial.
“If people can no longer move freely in our country without fear of hostilities, that is a significant restriction of our freedom,” René Mertens, a spokesperson for LSVD told NBC News in an email. “The safety of LGBTIQ [people] is not a marginal issue, but a human rights obligation. This obligation must be honored.”
The vandalism follows a similar incident in the Netherlands, in which the International Homomonument on the Koekamp was vandalized with anti-gay graffiti, as were the rainbow benches next to the monument.
The memorial is dedicated to all LGBTQ victims of persecution. It is located in The Hague, home to both the Dutch Parliament and the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.
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