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Fountain dedicated to Holocaust survivors vandalized at Santa Rosa cemetery

A fountain dedicated to Holocaust survivors was toppled onto the ground in pieces over the weekend at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, where police are investigating the act of vandalism to determine if it is a hate crime.

The fountain was part of a memorial created for the late Lillian Judd and her husband Emil, beloved figures in the local Jewish community who survived Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Jews visiting the northeast Santa Rosa cemetery used the fountain for ritual washing and cleansing.

On the opposite end of the cemetery, a maintenance trailer had walls damaged, equipment tossed around and shelves knocked down though nothing stolen, said Tim Maloney, general manager of the cemetery.

The tile-covered memorial was not defaced during the intrusion, which occurred late Sunday night or early Monday morning, but Maloney called the destruction an “unfortunate circumstance.”

Santa Rosa Police on Monday were unsure if the two vandalism acts are connected, Sgt. Dave Linscomb said.

There were no tool marks on the fallen stone, or visible evidence to indicate the fountain was struck down, he said, which means it was most likely pushed off its foundation.

Given the scale of the damage, any charges would be felonies, Linscomb said. And since the memorial has religious significance, hate crime charges are possible if police uncover an anti-Semitic motive.

“If there is something more to it, we’d go that direction,” Linscomb said. “But that needs to be vetted out with the investigation when we get a hold of who did this.”

Dennis Judd, a Sebastopol man who commissioned a colorful mosaic erected behind the fountain to honor his parents and other family members, said his mother always preached forgiveness.

Still, he had mixed thoughts Monday morning after hearing the fountain had been damaged, wary that it had been torn down with malicious intent.

“That’s what led up to the Holocaust and genocides - people hating and getting angry,” he said. “Mom always spoke about forgiveness. It’s sad to see somebody or a group of people would go and tear it down.”

Judd commissioned the mosaic three years ago after his mother, Lillian Judd, died in 2016 at age 92. She spent several decades of her life speaking to Sonoma County students about the Holocaust, emphasizing the importance of remembering the 6 million lives taken by genocide but also preaching the importance of releasing anger and hatred, her son said.

Lillian Judd was a teenager when the German army invaded her Czechoslovakian homeland in 1938, and 21 when she and her family and the other Jews in the Radvanka area were herded onto cattle cars and shipped to Auschwitz, the extermination camp where at least 1.1 million prisoners died.

The mosaic names 12 family members killed during Hitler’s campaign against the Jewish people.

Dennis Judd is hopeful something positive can come out of this act, and wants to see the community - regardless of religion or ethnicity - rally behind whatever symbol replaces the fountain, he said.

“The hope that mom had was to teach the kids and teach the adults about peace,” her son said. “That’s the thing we need to push on. Maybe the community can come together and help us resurrect the fountain and make it a place of healing. That was always the message for (Lillian).”

You can reach Staff Writer Yousef Baig at 707-521-5390 or yousef.baig@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @YousefBaig.

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