Italians were angered after two street murals in Milan, portraying Anne Frank and the 'Warsaw Ghetto boy,' were defaced within a day of their creation by the addition of pro-Palestinian slogans painted over them.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini echoed the public sentiment of widespread disapproval for the defacement of these murals, emphasizing the imperative for Italians "to unite in opposition to hatred."
An evocative mural in Milan's central Piazza Castello, featuring Holocaust victim Anne Frank in tears clutching the Israeli flag, was marred with the inscription 'GAZA FREE.'
In the original mural, alongside Anne Frank, was a depiction of a Palestinian girl, wearing a traditional keffiyeh, setting fire to the flag of the terrorist organization, Hamas. Notably, this part of the mural remained untouched by the vandals.
The second mural, located in the Porta Nuova Project district of Milan, was also defaced. This mural depicted the iconic 'Warsaw Ghetto boy' wearing the yellow Star of David, a symbol of oppression that the Nazis mandated Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
In a poignant reference to the authentic image from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, he has his hands raised in surrender, held captive by Hamas militants brandishing assault rifles, echoing the original scene where the young boy was under threat from a submachine gun wielded by Nazi SS soldier Josef Blösche.
After it was vandalized, the young boy in the mural was completely obliterated with white paint, while the figures of the Hamas militant and the youthful Gazan soldier next to him were left untouched.
The series of public art installations, titled 'Innocence, Hate and Hope', were the handiwork of artist aleXsandro Palombo. They appeared on the streets of Milan a month after the Hamas massacre of October 7.
Palombo, whose murals adorn walls in Milan, said they 'served as a stark reminder of the rising tide of antisemitism engulfing Jews globally.'
These locations included the central Piazza Castello, a site of recent demonstrations by the Jewish community, as well as the area of the newly acquired Porta Nuova project, backed by the sovereign fund of the Emirate of Qatar.
Salvini expressed his disappointment over the defacement of the murals, calling it a "disgrace".
"these cowardly actions do not intimidate me and I will continue to defend freedom of expression of our democracy and with my art I will respond to the terror they want to drag us into"
"The gesture of these antisemitic racists is to erase the memory in order to impose their terrorist thoughts," said Palombo in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle. "But these cowardly actions do not intimidate me and I will continue to defend freedom of expression of our democracy and with my art I will respond to the terror they want to drag us into.
"However this act of vandalism only reinforces the meaning of the works and forces us to respond even stronger because it highlights all the anger and social danger of this hateful antisemitic machine that is underway," he also said.
"Palombo's current murals street art is an important message of warning to the world," Batya Brutin, an Israeli art historian researcher and recipient of the Yad Vashem Award for lifelong contributions to Holocaust education, said, adding that although the motives behind the vandalism "remain unclear," it's crucial to underline the "importance of confronting antisemitism and hatred wherever it exists.
"While the motivations of the vandals remain unclear, we must remember the importance of confronting antisemitism and hatred wherever it exists," she reiterated.