The sign at the Packard Plant in Detroit that drew outrage for its similarity to a sign at the Auschwitz concentration camp has been removed.
Randy Wilcox of Harper Woods, who runs the website DetroitFunk.com, told the Free Press he took down the letters at about 5 p.m. today because “like most reasonable people, I was shocked and disgusted at the use of a concentration camp sign in such a fashion. I can’t imagine what the people who did it were thinking.”
Earlier, Jewish groups had expressed concern over the placing of a sign at the Packard Plant that was similar to one placed at the entrance to the death camp in Poland.
“This graffiti is offensive to Jews and particularly to Holocaust survivors,” said Heidi Budaj, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, the leading Jewish civil rights group in the U.S.
As reported first by the Free Press on Monday, new letters placed at the Packard Plant read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” the same German words at the entrance to the concentration camps in Poland where Jews were forced to work and were murdered.
Stephen Goldman, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills, said: “This message is offensive on so many levels. It … needs to be taken down.” He noted that many Holocaust survivors live in Michigan.
Wilcox, whose website documents Detroit, said: “This was either done with great malice, or done in complete stone ignorance of what Nazi symbolism brings to the table when you use it. And I can’t believe the city or county didn’t go there immediately with a truck to pull it down.”
John Bologna, an attorney for the owner of the site, told the Free Press on Monday they intended to remove it.
“I was distressed to hear of the” sign, Budaj said. “The prominent display of this quote at a historic Detroit landmark is disturbing and deeply offensive to victims of the Holocaust and to those who fought valiantly in World War II.”
The style of the lettering in the Detroit sign had specific similarities to the Nazi sign at Auschwitz that made it unique: for example, the upper half of the letter “B” in “Arbeit” (“Work”) is bigger than the lower half, just like it is in Auschwitz.
It’s unclear who put up the letters and if the sign was meant to be a satirical remark on the decline of manufacturing and cities like Detroit.
Regardless of the intent, Goldman said the sign was deeply offensive.
“As an artist, you should know better,” Goldman said. “I see no value to seeing this as a message, … That’s a poor image to use.”
Budaj said: “This message strikes at the very memory of a symbol representing the cruel cynicism of Nazism. This sign greeted more than one million prisoners as they were herded into the Auschwitz nightmare with the duplicitous message that ‘work sets you free.'”
“It’s a form of hate speech,” David Schulman, a Huntington Woods resident, told the Free Press on Monday.
FBI Detroit spokesman Simon Shaykhet said he could not confirm or deny the FBI is investigating the sign as a possible hate crime.
Source: THE DETROIT FREE PRESS