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Man Arrested After Boston's Holocaust Memorial Vandalized Overnight

BOSTON (CBS) -- Part of the New England Holocaust Memorial was damaged in an act of vandalism overnight, Boston Police said.

Boston Police responded to a vandalism call at the Memorial on Union Street just before 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, and blocked it off with crime tape. They found part of the memorial shattered.

holocaust memorial damaged
Boston's Holocaust Memorial damaged by vandal (Ben Parker/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

"This morning's vandalism of the Holocaust memorial site will not be tolerated in Boston," Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Together with the Boston Police, we will make sure anyone involved in this act will be held responsible."

James Issac, 21 of Roxbury, was arrested nearby and charged with willful and malicious destruction of property and destruction of a place of memorial.

Officers were told Issac was seen throwing a rock at the memorial, which shattered the glass.

Izzy Arbeiter is a Holocaust survivor. He came out to see the damage late Wednesday morning.

Izzy Arbeiter speaks with WBZ NewsRadio and WBZ-TV at the Holocaust Memorial (WBZ NewsRadio | Ben Parker)

Arbeiter said he found out about the vandalism this morning when his wife came to him crying.

"I lost my entire family in the Holocaust, in Auschwitz. I was in Auschwitz myself. It was a terrible thing," he said.

His number, etched on him from Auschwitz, was on that panel.

The tattooed numbers Izzy Arbeiter was given during the Holocaust (WBZ NewsRadio | Ben Parker)

The broken glass was on the second level above the entrance to the walkway through the memorial.

The memorial has six glass towers, each 54 feet high, which represent the six main death camps where the Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust.

The panels have millions of numbers etched into the glass, which represent the tattoos on the Holocaust victims' arms.

"When a memorial is desecrated, when this glass is shattered, people feel that," said Robert Trestan from the Anti-Defamation League. "It really impacts people in a very profound way." 

Mayor Marty Walsh's office said they will work quickly to get the memorial repaired. The city already had duplicate panels ready as a backup because the designers feared there would be an act of vandalism.

Issac was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court later Wednesday. His bail was revoked because of an unrelated assault and battery charge.

Arbeiter asked, "Why did they do it? Did they pick it because it is a memorial for the Holocaust?"

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Rizzo told the court that Isaac had gotten into a verbal argument with a group of people nearby around 2:00 a.m. He said a witness then saw Isaac pick up a rock and throw it out of anger.

The rock hit the glass of the Memorial, shattering it.

Defense attorneys said that Isaac is homeless and suffers from mental illness.

"When he was eight-years-old his father was tragically murdered, this had a significant impact on Mr. Isaac as he was growing up. He has been diagnosed with a host of mental health issues and has struggled considerably," explained public defender Rebecca Kozah.

Investigators are not currently ruling the act a hate crime, but members of the Jewish community came together for a prayer service there just before noon.

Barry Shrage, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies president said, "We are not going anywhere that's what makes us the Jewish people, us the city of Boston, us the American people truly great."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker reports

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