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Nazi symbol drawn outside Concord human rights center named for congressman who survived Holocaust

May 29. 2014 10:17AM

CONCORD -- A 6-by-6-foot swastika painted in lighter fluid was found Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot outside the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

Police Lt. Timothy O'Malley said detectives are investigating the incident. Someone called police just after 3 p.m. Wednesday to report seeing a thin, 5-foot-10 individual in his late teens or early 20s,  in a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, making the outline on the pavement with lighter fluid.

The individual ran off without setting it on fire.

The Nazi symbol is concerning for the staff of the human rights organization, which is named for late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, according to his daughter, Katrina Lantos Swett of Bow.

Swett established the foundation and said it is concerning that someone would draw a swatzika outside it.  She said she does not know if the foundation was the intended target  or if if was a random act.

However, the foundation has been very vocal about the recent reemergence of anti-semitism, particularly in Europe, she said.

Swett  said the organization, which moved into the 6 Dixon Ave. building last December, has never encountered anything like that before.

She said it is concerning because of the "very, very disturbing resurgence of anti-semitism across Europe."

However, Swett said she has found Concord to be a very tolerant community where residents "stand shoulder-to-shoulder and come together" when incidents like this happen.

The nonprofit is one of several businesses located in the building, which is near the corner of North Main and Pleasant streets, police said.

O'Malley said investigators don't know if the individual was targeting the human rights organization or if the act was random.

Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary, and as a teenager was sent to a forced labor camp by the German Nazis. He escaped the labor camp and sought refuge with an aunt who lived in a safe house operated by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews, according to the foundation's website.

Lantos joined the anti-Nazi resistance and after the Russians liberated Budapest in 1945, he tried to find his mother and family members, but realized they all perished in the Holocaust.

In 1947, Lantos came to the United States to study on a Hillel Foundation Scholarship, earning his B.A. in 1949 and M.A. in economics in 1950, both from the University of Washington in Seattle. Three years later, he received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1980 in California and served until his death in 2008. 

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