Vandals spray paint swastika, deface graves of fallen WWII soldiers in Netherlands

A World War II cemetery that is the resting place for hundreds of British and Commonwealth soldiers in the Netherlands was the target of vandals who spray-painted a big swastika and random letters on many headstones.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) the vandals targeted the Mierlo War Cemetery in the southern region of Noord-Brabant, which is the final resting place for 658 soldiers who fought in the Second World War.

"My heart is crying," a woman told the BBC, whose parents helped to look after the cemetery for years. "Here are 17- and 18-year-old boys buried, who liberated us."

A police officer walks past graves which have been vandalized with graffiti, and a large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A police officer walks past graves which have been vandalized with graffiti, and a large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

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The CWGC said it was "appalled" by the vandalism, which it said occurred just days other vandals had damaged to the cemetery.

"It is distressing to see the damage on the headstones themselves, behind every one of those war graves is a human story of someone who gave their life while in service," it said in a statement.

Dutch news broadcaster Omroep Brabant expressed outrage over the vandalism with a reporter calling the acts "unbelieveable"

A large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Rob Engelaar / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Rob Engelaar / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

"It's not just a bit of daubing here, no, they've daubed everywhere," the reporter said. "There's a letter daubed on nearly every headstone. Unbelievable."

Graffiti vandalism has started occurring at the cemetery in the lead up to the 75th anniversary of allied forces landing in the Netherlands to liberate the area from Nazi control during WWII, the BBC reported.

Prince Charles is scheduled to attend a Dutch Memoriam of the 1944 Battle of Arnhem later this month.

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A police officer walks past graves which have been vandalised with graffiti, and a large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Rob Engelaar / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A police officer walks past graves which have been vandalised with graffiti, and a large swastika was daubed on the inner wall of the chapel in the British World War II Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Mierlo, east of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on September 13, 2019. (Photo by Rob Engelaar / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROB ENGELAAR/AFP/Getty Images)

The battle caused the British 1st Airborne Division to lose nearly 75 percent of its division as casualties. While the battle was considered a failure of the British army, Amhem is considered a symbol of their fighting spirit.

One example of graffiti sprayed on the site was "MH17 lie," referencing the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Of the 298 people killed on the flight, 193 were Dutch.

On Saturday morning, staff with the CWGC removed the graffiti from the graves and memorials.

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Dutch police have urged anyone who could identify the vandals to come forward.