On August 17th, 2017, Corey Fleischer, of Erasing Hate, was called by a concerned citizen, regarding a swastika prominently displayed in a park. The park is Parc des ancres, in the town of Pointe-des-Cascades, located north of Vaudreuil, Quebec.
When Corey arrived, he found two swastikas to be on a large anchor displayed in the park. He observed that the city had taken care of this anchor, repainting it (beige, black, and white) and the swastikas were engraved into the metal – and painted a prominent black against the white background.
|Photo: Corey Fleischer, Facebook|
Corey wants the anchor removed altogether, but in the interim, was satisfied to simply obliterate the swastikas. As he began to paint over the first swastika, the mayor of the city showed up and told him to stop.
As Corey said:
He couldn’t understand why I was so upset, and why I was removing the paint that covered the Swastika. He then told me that if I didn’t leave the park, he would call the police and charge me with “Destruction of Property.”
Corey did not back down, and a discussion ensued when police were called. You can see it in the video below:
Corey had to leave the park without taking care of the hate symbol.
Later in the week, Corey posted this photo of the plaque under what he calls “Swastika Anchor”.
|Courtesy Corey Fleischer, Facebook|
What adds to the disturbing nature of this entire story is that someone in this city felt proud to display a Nazi “souvenir” with a symbol of hate out in the open, a park, where kids play and families gather.
There are many who support Corey and are disgusted by the city not only endorsing but protecting this hate symbol. But the most shocking results are the comments his Facebook post has received.
There were those who tried to argue that the swastika is a sign of peace, originally. There were others who argued that these particular swastikas were not painted on an angle, and therefore were not symbols of hate. And still others – too many, in my opinion – who tried to debate that the anchor predated World War II and was not intended to offend.
It is impossible to comprehend how anyone can defend this hate speech, and not experience the visceral, gut-punched revulsion that most decent humans do when confronted by it.
It begged the question: is a swastika any less offensive if on an item that was not intended to persecute the Jews?
The answer is very clear: there is never going to be any other meaning assigned to the swastika than the one it became in 1930s and 40s Europe: anti-Semitism, hate, and persecution of the Jewish people.
For those who claim – as has been reported – that the swastika was painted on a British anchor, I say this: swastikas that are spray painted on a Canadian brick wall are no less hateful than those on Nazi flags and armbands worn by the S.S. Therefore, the anchor and its origins do not soften the meaning either.
The British anchors that bore the swastika before Nazis made it into their flag were not painted in the Hitlerian color scheme. They were monotone. The one in Pointe-des-Cascades was very freshly painted black, on a white circle; that is clearly Nazi-related.
But here’s the thing: the historical context, the date, and the meaning of the swastika when that anchor was created are no longer relevant. The symbol has been forever perverted by Nazis who marched under it while they set out to humiliate, isolate, torture, murder, and burn the bodies of six million Jews – and never can the swastika be seen in any other light.
Even the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington D.C. states that “By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.” (emphasis is mine)
We have seen neo-Nazis marching on a city in the USA just this month, carrying swastika flags; we cannot deny that the symbol continues to be anti-Semitic.
For those who derisively sneered that perhaps no Nazi memorabilia, or Holocaust artifacts should ever be seen, I say this: there are places for those items. Yad Vashem. The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The myriad museums around the world where one can go for the express purpose of learning about the Holocaust, its atrocities, and its outcomes, so that education can ensue and the world can continue to remember the horrors of Nazi Germany. Museums are designed by those who know how to teach, properly exhibit, and provide explanations for the items curated within. A park is not a museum.
For the one incredibly obtuse, disrespectful commenter who suggested to me that Auschwitz be bulldozed (“to the ground” because it was made by Germans), I say this: missing the point is a sign of deep ignorance, or cognitive dissonance. Deflection is a sign of defensiveness. If he was defending his hate, it was blatant.
Ignorance will breed more ignorance, and when we say Never Forget, it’s a literal mantra. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
No one is saying that all remnants of World War II be erased forever. Quite the opposite. There are places for such memorabilia, to educate, to witness, and those places are where visitors expect to be confronted by symbols of hate and horror.
But a park is not a museum – no matter how much its defenders call it thus; and it is certainly not a place for swastikas – most especially not when they are freshly painted, defended, and protected by the mayor of the city in which they are located.
Fleischer has retained the legal services of a lawyer who will represent him if further action is taken against him (thus far, none has been instigated). I have no information as to how he will proceed from here, but what we know about Corey Fleischer is that he doesn’t give up. He is a crusader against Hate of all kinds: against religious groups (ALL religions), races, sexual orientation, gender, nationality. He has made it his Mission to Erase Hate wherever it is displayed, and there’s no way this will continue without his pressing the matter.
The fact that the Mayor Gilles Santerre (of Pointe-des-Cascades) couldn’t empathize with Corey, or every other Jewish person to whom that symbol represents hate and suffering, is disturbing – to say the least. That he would protect it, even after Corey explained its meaning, is even more of a concern.
There are only two reasons someone would be so laissez-faire about a swastika: ignorance, or anti-Semitism.
Neither is a great quality, especially in a mayor of a municipality.
There should be no further ignorance, after being taught the reason for Corey Fleischer’s desire to remove the swastikas. He explained, in the video above, quite clearly, what the symbol represents. The mayor should already know what the Holocaust was.
So, we’re left with the other choice: anti-Semitism. Someone painted meticulously over those swastikas, to emphasize them. I find it hard to believe they didn’t know what the symbol means. And so, we’re faced with the mayor of a small town, his public works employees, and perhaps city councilors who are willfully allowing the definitive symbol of anti-Semitism to glaringly greet anyone who walks in that park.
This incident is a very slippery slope. I believe that if we do not succeed in getting the mayor to remove this hateful item from the public’s view, we are going to see many more of these excuses made for other hate symbols that will pop up – not just in Montreal, not just in Canada, but perhaps worldwide.
Meanwhile, as of Monday, August 21, 2017, the following press release appeared on the city’s website:
|From Pointe-des-Cascades website|
The mayor has decided to install new plates, explaining the history of the symbols and the artifact.
Not good enough. See, it doesn’t matter what the swastika used to mean. It has forever been changed, and will never be seen as anything other than a symbol of Nazism and anti-Semitism. No amount of explanation will change that. Any Jewish person confronted by it will never be placated by a weak explanation of what it used to mean.
It means one thing, now and forevermore.
I sincerely hope the mayor of Pointe-des-Cascades – M. Gilles Santerre – will reconsider.
Perhaps he can meet with educators on the issue; perhaps a town hall in which he learns, and hears from survivors, families, researchers, those who work on behalf of combatting anti-Semitism. I would be more than happy to speak with him, as I know Corey Fleischer and others would as well.
But this cannot remain as is. No press release, no explanation, no historical context will ever take away the fact that the symbol was twisted into one of hate and cannot be unseen as such.
Education is key. It is not present in Pointe-des-Cascades.