Youth camp hit by vandals

August 18, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

HIGHFIELD - For the first time in its 76-year history, a camp for Jewish children in northeast Washington County was the target of vandals who used tree branches to form a crude swastika on the ground over the weekend.

Camp Louise administrator Mike Schneider said he was disturbed by the incident, discovered Sunday and reported Monday to Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies.

--cont. from news page--

Schneider said he believes the act was more "thoughtless and careless" than racial. But the choice of a swastika, a Nazi trademark and a symbol of anti-Semitism, has given him pause, he said.

"We have always had a very good relationship with the community and since the camp was established in 1922 we haven't had any such incidents," Schneider said Tuesday in a telephone interview.


Deputy 1st Class Tim Hafer said he went to the camp at 24959 Pen Mar Road around noon Monday.

He walked down a trail outside the fenced perimeter of the camp toward a wooded area used by the girl campers for arts and crafts projects.

"I saw the swastika on the ground, about 3 feet by 3 feet," Hafer said. "Tree branches had been snapped off, not cut, to form the symbol."

Nearby, a lean-to made with branches and twine had been knocked over, Hafer said. There were no other signs of damage.

"Usually with racial crimes, there is a bigger statement made in a more public way," Hafer said. "This looks more like kids being ignorant."

Police said the incident has been classified as a racial crime and will be reported to the Maryland State Police Uniform Crime Report Unit in Pikesville, Md.

A spokesman there said two racial incidents were reported in Washington County in the first quarter of 1998 - one ruled conclusive and one inconclusive.

The "conclusive" incident was racially offensive mail received by an interracial couple, a complaint handled in January by Maryland State Police.

The other incident was reported by Hagerstown City Police but was ruled inconclusive. No further details were available on the nature of that incident.

Statewide, 188 such incidents were reported in the same four-month period, state police said.

Schneider said the fenced 400-acre camp in far northeastern Washington County has 24-hour security when camp is in session.

The summer season recently ended at Camp Louise and at its counterpart for boys, Camp Airy, in nearby Thurmont in Frederick County, Md.

The camp had a successful season, Schneider said, noting that between 1,100 to 1,200 girls from the Baltimore-Washington area attended the two- and four-week sessions, some of which were filled in February.

While the incident was cause for concern, Schneider said he wasn't prepared to say that anything has changed as far as the acceptance of the camp in the community is concerned.

"What is most disturbing is that one or two individuals can be so thoughtless," Schneider said.

The Herald-Mail Articles