At least 57 tombstones in a large Jewish cemetery outside Norridge were defaced with anti-Semitic slogans last weekend in a vandalism spree that caused at least $100,000 in damage, Cook County police said.
Using white and blue spray paint, vandals drew swastikas and slurs on tombstones in a western section of the 72-acre Westlawn Cemetery, 7801 W. Montrose Ave., where roughly 46,000 people are buried. In one corner of the cemetery, a headstone inscribed with the words “Beloved husband & father” for a man who died at age 85 had a white swastika painted on a corner.
“This is heartbreaking,” said Linda Haase, who has relatives buried at the cemetery, including her father-in-law and grandmother, though their graves were not defaced. “Look, my husband’s father fought against the Nazis in World War II.”
Haase, the spokeswoman for the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago, said the cemetery was an extremely honored place for Chicago-area Jewish families. She took her daughter Jenna, who is named after grandfather Jerome, to the cemetery soon after Jenna was born.
Sheriff Tom Dart said he considers the vandalism, thought to have occurred late Jan. 5 or early Sunday, a hate crime committed by “some incredibly sick cowards.” No arrests have been made.
“What they did here is especially despicable,” Dart said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “The desecration of graves has a level in the circle of hell that goes to the very bottom.”
“I’m shocked. I’m nauseated,” said Vickie Pulido, the cemetery’s general manager. She said she has reached about half the families of those whose headstones were defaced and that some wept when they heard the news.
Police are investigating the spray paint used, which Dart said was difficult to purchase. Pulido also said there was one clear footprint left behind.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 847-635-1188.