A handwritten sign reading 'fake news' and 'MAGA' was found outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the Northwest side.
A handwritten sign reading "Fake News" and "MAGA" was found outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio Tuesday morning. Credit: Courtesy Image

A homemade sign reading “Fake News” and “MAGA” appeared by the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio Tuesday morning. A photo of the sign, circulated on social media, shows a white board with black spray-painted words. An arrow points toward the Holocaust museum’s display, seemingly connecting the phrase “fake news” with the Holocaust museum.

This is the second reported incident of vandalism demonstrating intolerance in Bexar County in as many days. The City of Converse removed two spray-painted swastikas on its welcome sign Monday morning.

Museum Director Ellen Ollervidez said she arrived after the sign had been taken down. The police officer who filed the report of the incident told her someone had called the San Antonio Police Department to inform them of the sign’s presence on the museum campus. Ollervidez said the officer did not consider the sign to be anti-Semitic at first sight.

“I believe this specifically speaks to those who wish to deny this history, and therefore it concerns me,” Ollervidez said. “I asked someone who works at the museum who … said she’s not Jewish and not necessarily considering this from a cultural perspective, but as a historian. She believed it did reek of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”

Many people may not understand why someone would choose to place a “Fake News” sign pointing toward a Holocaust museum, Ollervidez said, but people who have studied the history know that those who deny or discount the Holocaust often use “suggestive language.”

“It seems benign, but under the surface, it’s anything but,” she said.

The Muslim Children Education and Civic Center in a statement Tuesday said it condemns the “insulting, demeaning, and dehumanizing incident.”

“The people of San Antonio will not be cowed by hate or indifferent to bigotry … We will prosecute those who vandalize, menace, harass or discriminate against any of our communities,” State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) said in a Wednesday statement. “The Holocaust museum exists so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. I urge everyone to visit the museum, show your support and send the message to anyone who would target the Jewish community or any community of our city that they will not succeed.”

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is housed on the same property as the Barshop Jewish Community Center, on the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus of the San Antonio Jewish Community on the city’s North Side. The campus operations team removed the sign early Tuesday morning.

In 2015, the nearby communities of Rodfei Sholom and Oak Meadow were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, just down the road on Northwest Military Highway.

In an email to the Rivard Report, SAPD Public Information Officer Romana Lopez said a report was filed with the department at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

“Officers were called to Wurzbach Pkwy. and NW Military Hwy. for Threats on Dec. 18, 2018,” Lopez wrote. “The report is not available and we have not received any preliminary information at this time.”

The day before, City workers in Converse discovered two swastikas spray-painted in black onto the municipality’s welcome sign. Crews quickly removed the graffiti, leaving a faint outline of the swastikas behind.

Public Works Director Mark Velasquez said the department’s “street team” drives around the northeast Bexar County municipality each morning to look for problems such as potholes or signs in need of repair. His team found the graffiti around 7:15 a.m. and called the police right away, he said. After police officers came to write a report, Public Works employees removed the swastikas with a chemical remover.

“Luckily we found it early enough where it hadn’t set in on the sign and damage was minimized,” Velasquez said.

He said whoever vandalized the sign did so either late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Velasquez, who started his job in Converse a little more than 90 days ago, said this was the first vandalism case he’s seen.

He said the content of the graffiti did not heighten the priority of the removal.

“The fact that it was vandalism in general was the reason it was removed,” he said. “Public Works likes to pride itself on upkeep of all right-of-ways and municipal signs.”

Police Lt. Jeff Shook, who runs the Converse Police Department’s criminal investigations unit, said the investigation is still active but the department had no immediate leads.

“As far as information regarding suspects, I can tell you there is not,” he said.

Shook said he has not seen that type of graffiti in Converse previously.

“This is not a regular consistent type of graffiti marking,” he said.

The vandalized sign is near the intersection of Toepperwein Road and Laurel Creek.

The Converse Police Department is asking people who may have any information to call the investigations unit at 210-658-2322, extension 206. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

This article was originally published on Dec. 17, 2018.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.