Swastikas (illustration)
Swastikas (illustration) Flash 90

A swastika was painted on a headstone and two other headstones were knocked over and broken in an anti-Semitic attack at a cemetery in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The vandalism was discovered Saturday at the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Constable Greg Marsden said two headstones had been hit with so much force that they “have broken in half”.

The third headstone had a swastika painted on it.

“It is a desecration,” he said, adding, “I would prefer to think it wasn't [a racially motivated attack], and that it was just a childish act ... but it is a fairly nasty incident.”

Police were treating the matter seriously and were appealing for any witnesses, the report said.

“We would love to catch up with the person who has done it,” said Marsden.

Andrew Spiegel, of the Dunedin Jewish Congregation, said the Dunedin Jewish community was “extremely saddened”.

“We find this type of vandalism not only to be ignorant and stupid, but also state that the underlying menace behind it is disturbing and worrying,” he said, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Spiegel added he would not want to see it repeated on the graves of anyone's loved ones, “no matter what their religion”, and expressed hope police would be able to catch those responsible to see them “brought to justice”.

The New Zealand Jewish Council had been contacted about the incident and “shares our concern and disgust at this criminal act”, he said.

The incident is the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents around the world.

A previous anti-Semitic incident occurred in New Zealand in November, when a four-year-old Jewish boy was attacked by a thug as he was walking home from preschool with a friend and his brother.

Vandalism of graves has become a common method to attack Jews around the world. In France this week, several hundred tombstones were defaced at a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre-Union.

Five boys aged 15 to 17 have been taken into custody over the incident.