Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cops bust Polish neo-Nazi for Jewish grave vandalism

A neo-Nazi from Norridge confessed Friday to desecrating a Jewish cemetery with anti-Semitic graffiti, police said.

Mariusz Wdziekonski, 21, is being held awaiting hate crime and criminal damage to property charges for allegedly painting blue-and-silver swastikas and slurs — including “Aryan Power” and “white power” — on 57 headstones at Westlawn Cemetery in unincorporated Norridge Park Township last month, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Wdziekonski, a machine mechanic, told investigators that he’s a “dues-paying member” of the “National Socialist Movement 88,” and that he vandalized the cemetery to stand out as a hero among his hate group peers. The “88” is a symbol for “Heil Hitler,” police said.

Wdziekonski, a Polish immigrant who has been in the United States for four years, was involved in the neo-Nazi movement in Poland, police said.

Cook County sheriff's police investigators caught a break in the case when Des Plaines police got a tip that Wdziekonski, of the 7800 block of Lawrence in Norridge, was responsible for the cemetery crime.

Police initially thought several vandals were involved, but Dart said Wdziekonski acted alone. If convicted, Wdziekonski, who lives a few blocks from the cemetery, could face up to 10 years in prison.

Cemetery general manager Vickie Pulido said she was glad police made an arrest so quickly.

“Hopefully, now justice will prevail and our families can begin the process of healing,” she said. “This has weighed very heavy on our families’ minds.”

The cemetery’s granite contractor told Pulido he expects to be able to remove the graffiti from the headstones for about $13,000, she said.