Two bronze Stars of David have been stolen from a memorial sculpture at Milton Cemetery for a girl killed in the Holocaust, a crime the artist Monday denounced as a “despicable” act of hatred.
“I’m very upset, because it’s not merely a sculpture,” said Fred Manasse, 81, who created Myriam’s Memorial to honor his sister, who died in a Nazi concentration camp as a child. “It is a memorial for my sister and the one-and-a-half million children who died in the Holocaust.”
The memorial was installed in the summer of 2014 at the historic cemetery and included two bronze Stars of David atop a white marble plinth.
Manasse, a Waltham resident who was born in Germany and last saw his sister in 1939 when she was a toddler, said the theft “has to be considered a hate crime, because it’s clearly a Jewish symbol,” he said.
Displaying the memorial at the cemetery, he said, had “finally allowed me a place where I could meditate about her life, as much of it as I know.
“When she died, she was probably less than 9 years old,” he said. “She died in the concentration camps; we don’t even know which one.”
The sculpture portrays childlike hands cupping the air within the smaller star.
Therese Desmond, the cemetery superintendent, said staff noticed Monday afternoon the bronze was missing from the memorial and called Manasse before alerting Milton police. She said she believes the vandalism occurred at some point over the weekend.
“That a person or persons would destroy a memorial to a child is just beyond understanding,” Desmond said. “This memorial also represented all the children who were murdered in the Holocaust. That someone would disrespect that, maybe they just didn’t know what it represented.”
Desmond urged anyone with information about the theft to contact police.
“We do have a lot of visitors to the cemetery over the weekend,” she said. “We’re hoping that people who visited the cemetery or were driving through, maybe someone saw something unusual or suspicious activity.”
Milton Police Chief John King could not be reached for comment.
Manasse came to the United States in the 1940s at the age of 9 with his brother after hiding from the Nazis in various places in Europe. He previously told the Globe that his father was killed at Auschwitz in 1942.
“We never found out when my mother and sister were murdered,” he said Monday. “It was one of the camps in Poland, I’m sure.”
Manasse, a retired engineer, said he doubts the vandal or vandals who damaged his memorial did so for financial gain, since it did not contain enough bronze to “make it worth their while.”
“They probably wanted to strike back at the Jewish people, I guess,” he said. “We don’t know. All I know is that to me, it represents a hate crime, and another loss.”
In promotional materials for his memorial and other artworks that were installed at the cemetery, Manasse was described as an artist who primarily specialized in realistic figurative bronze sculptures.
Before Myriam’s Memorial, Manasse “felt prepared to create a memorial bronze abstract sculpture about his family and did so in 2008,” a cemetery brochure stated. “It is entitled ‘My Diaspora’ and has been exhibited publicly many times and has won awards in art competitions for both the Newton Art Association and the Cape Cod Art Association.”
He created Myriam’s Memorial as “a ‘symbolic grave’ of his murdered sister,” the brochure said.