Austria's Parliament building in Vienna
Austria's Parliament building in ViennaiStock

Photos of Holocaust survivors exhibited on a central Vienna street have been defaced with swastikas, drawing condemnation from political and Jewish leaders, The Associated Press reports.

Local broadcaster ORF reported Wednesday that ESRA, a group that brought the work by German-Italian photographer Luigi Toscano to the Austrian capital, said several photos were daubed with swastikas and other graffiti on Tuesday.

The exhibition opened on part of the Ringstrasse, a busy road that runs around downtown Vienna, on May 7 and the group said some portraits were previously damaged with knives, according to the report.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the incident, tweeting that he was "dismayed by the anti-Semitic defilement" of the photos and calling for a thorough investigation, according to AP.

The leader of Austria's Jewish community, Oskar Deutsch, said that "it is an anti-Semitic attack on all of Austria" and that police are investigating.

Kurz has pledged to make "combating anti-Semitism in all its forms" a top priority and has also publicly acknowledged Austria’s "historic responsibility" in the genocide of Jews during World War II.

Kurz’s government includes members of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which in recent times has vigorously condemned racism, including anti-Semitism, but at the same time has been embroiled in a number of embarrassing controversies over the activities of some of its members.

Israel decided to limit its contact with Austrian ministers who are members of the FPOe. However, even as Israel’s Foreign Ministry limited its contact with the ministries headed by the Freedom Party to the professional staff, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has maintained direct contact with Kurz and the two have met several times.