December 18, 2018

Artist paints over anti-Semitic graffiti on Berlin Wall monument

Gunther Schaefer, who painted “Vaterland” an image of the German flag with a Star of David painted on it, has covered the anti-Semitic graffiti and the hate slogans that marred the mural on the East Side gallery of the wall.

The graffiti appeared on Friday, and Schaefer says his mural has been the target of vandalism 51 times since he first painted it, in 1990. The timing of this most recent act of vandalism is particularly chilling, since it coincides with the Maccabi Games, which, for the first time since the Holocaust, are being hosted by Germany.

The Berlin Wall, which for decades divided Germany into West and East during the Cold War, has been transformed into a symbol of unity with a gallery displaying the works of artists from 100 countries. The hate speech written on the “Vaterland” Star of David mural demonstrates that attempts towards creating unity are often met with resistance.

It has not yet been established whether the perpetrator is a neo-Nazi or a religious fundamentalist, but a man of Arabic origin has been questioned over the incident. The mural is on the East Side gallery, on the largest section of the wall that is still intact.

The connection between the graffiti and the Maccabi Games is only speculative, but it has been a dark moment in an event that was otherwise greeted with optimism, as 2,500 Jewish athletes from 36 countries came together in Berlin for a 10 day sporting event that has its roots in 1936, when Jews were excluded from the Olympic games.

The 14th European Maccabi Games had its opening ceremony in the Waldbuhne Arena in Berlin, which was constructed by the Nazis for the 1936 games. German President Joachim Gauck, who spoke at the ceremony, said: “I’m glad, and I think it is significant that you chose this place, and I am very moved that this country and this city will see the Olympic games.”