Scarborough police are pursuing the possibility of a racial motive behind the vandalism on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day of a statue of a British soldier who helped to liberate Belsen.
Yellow paint was splashed over the sculpture, known as Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers, last Thurday night. "We are exploring all possibilities as to who is responsible and have not ruled out any antisemitic motive behind the incident," said a police spokesman.
Residents are so outraged at the attack that they have offered a £2,000 reward for information to help catch the culprits.
Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "To deface a statue dedicated to British troops who liberated Bergen-Belsen would be an appalling act any time, an insult to both the victims of the Holocaust and the veterans who witnessed scenes of profound horror.
"For such an act of vandalism to take place on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is absolutely despicable."
The sculpture was loaned to the town last autumn by its creator Ray Lonsdale, but proved so popular that local pensioner Maureen Robinson paid £50,000 in order to keep it there.
Freddie Gilroy, a miner from County Durham who died in 2008, was among the British troops who entered Belsen in 1945.
One of his duties was to guard the camp physician Fritz Klein, who described Jews as "the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That's why I cut them out". He was hanged later that year.