Feb 13, 2022 - World

Scoop: Swastika discovered at U.S. embassy in Bulgaria

Illustration of a hand holding a magnifying glass over the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A swastika drawn on a window shade in purple ink was found inside the U.S. embassy in Bulgaria last month, Axios has learned, raising concern within the State Department headquarters itself about antisemitism.

Driving the news: News of the discovery circulated in Washington on Friday after the embassy in Sofia sent back a diplomatic cable describing the incident.

  • The image was first identified on Jan. 28, a day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Another swastika was found inside the department itself last July, as first reported by Axios.

Why it matters: The latest swastika was found in a secure part of the embassy, indicating whoever drew it had access inside an American diplomatic outpost, according to sources with knowledge of the cable.

  • "The department takes this matter extremely seriously," said Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson. "We unequivocally condemn any instances of hate or bias in the workplace, which this appears to be."
  • "This is a repugnant symbol that stands for everything we as a department are standing against," he said. "We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure the State Department, including our posts overseas, remain a welcoming, inclusive and bias-free workplace."

Between the lines: President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the July incident in which a swastika was found etched inside an elevator at State Department headquarters.

  • "Let me be clear: Antisemitism has no place in the State Department, in my administration, or anywhere in the world,” Biden said in a statement in July. “It’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor and stand up to bigotry wherever we find it."
  • The State Department launched an investigation into the incident, but its findings have not been announced.

What we're watching: Biden has nominated Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt to lead a State Department office charged with monitoring and combating antisemitism.

  • While the office was created in 2004, this would be the first time the special envoy post would carry the rank of ambassador.
  • During her Senate confirmation hearing this week, Lipstadt warned of a rise in antisemitism, calling it "staggering."
  • "Increasingly, Jews have been singled out for slander, violence and terrorism," she said.
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