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UC Santa Cruz students threw Hitler a birthday party, complete with swastikas

The UC Santa Cruz McHenry Library | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

While most people celebrate 420 with weed, Santa Cruz neo-Nazis chose to honor a fascist dictator.

The University of California Santa Cruz is investigating a party held on campus on April 20, in which a group of students allegedly celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday, complete with birthday tunes and a cake adorned with “hateful and horrific” symbols. 

A day later, a second incident was reported by a student who found an antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ+ flier on their car windshield. 

These reports mark the second and third antisemitic acts reported at UC Santa Cruz since the start of 2022. Graffiti with “anti-Black, antisemitic and white supremacist” imagery was found on campus in March 2022, according to a message from the school’s leadership. 

The University of California Santa Cruz has had several antisemitic incidents in the last two years. | Doug Duran/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Antisemitic incidents such as these are becoming more frequent on school campuses across the country, and particularly in the Bay Area. A teacher at Hayward Unified School District was put on leave in February after spewing antisemitic conspiracies and rhetoric for over two months. 

Antisemitic acts in the United States reached a record high in 2021, and they increased by more than 35% in 2022, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League. Antisemitic incidents in Northern California, by comparison, shot up by 137% in the same period, according to the league’s regional director Teresa Drenick. 

“Given these numbers, the ADL remains really deeply concerned and disturbed by the level of antisemitic incidents on campuses,” Drenick said. “Our call to campus administrators is that they speak out, each and every time an incident takes place, and they call out that incident really calling it what it is: clearly, a hate-related, hate-fueled incident, but also call it the antisemitic incident that it is.”

Numerous Swastikas Found at Stanford

Just an hour away from Santa Cruz, Stanford University has documented no fewer than nine antisemitic incidents since the start of this academic year. 

Eight of the incidents—spanning from February to April 2023—involved swastikas drawn on campus department buildings and student residences, according to Stanford’s Protected Identity Harm Reports. The history department at Lane Hall has been targeted three separate times, and viral images of a student reading Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, on campus circulated in January. 

RELATED: Swastikas, Image of Hitler Found Drawn on Jewish Student’s Dormitory Door

The Stanford University history department is located in Lane Hall on the Stanford campus, pictured on April 9, 2017. | Liz Lindqwister/The Standard

In September, on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, a sacred piece of parchment known as a mezuzah was torn off a door frame of a residence housing two Jewish graduate students. The university has not yet identified a perpetrator and has classified the act as a hate crime. 

Students, staff and members of Hillel at Stanford have decried the rise of antisemitic incidents at the university, which recently released a report detailing Stanford’s historic discrimination against Jewish students. Other universities—such as Georgetown, Princeton, Harvard and Johns Hopkins—have carried out similar public reckonings with their histories of institutional antisemitism. 

“Students targeted and harassed for their identity feel marginalized, distrustful and isolated from the campus community,” 12 Stanford professors wrote in an April op-ed in the campus newspaper. “We are disheartened that the victim of one recent antisemitic incident shared that his experience was ‘really making this living situation feel pretty hostile.’” 

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