Friday, 18 Sep 2020 - 29 of Elul, 5780
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Jewish groups, customers denounce Nazi face masks worn in Minnesota Walmart

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The couple was served trespass notices by the local police department and warned that they would be arrested if they returned to the store.

By Jackson Richman

By Jackson Richman,JNS

Jewish groups have rebuked a couple who was confronted at a Walmart in Marshall, Minn., on July 25 for wearing Nazi swastika-flags on their face masks.

Raphaela Mueller, born and raised in Germany and the vicar of a southwest Minnesota parish, filmed the couple in the store as they were confronted about the image on face masks. The couple was apparently protesting the state’s mask mandate, which took effect that day.

The woman in the offensive mask told Mueller that those who vote for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, will “be living in Nazi Germany.” Other customers also denounced the pair, with one man saying, “You can’t be American and wear that mask; you cannot. We literally had a war about this.”

The two were served trespass notices by the Marshall Police Department and warned that they would be arrested if they returned to the store.

Delia Garcia, a spokeswoman for Walmart, said the couple is banned for at least one year. How they would be identified if they did so in the future remains to be seen.

In a statement, Walmart’s corporate office said, “What happened today at our store in Marshall, MN is unacceptable. We strive to provide a safe and comfortable shopping environment for all our customers and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in any aspect of our business. We are asking everyone to wear face coverings when they enter our stores for their safety and the safety of others and it’s unfortunate that some individuals have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to create a distressing situation for customers and associates in our store.”

Jewish groups slammed the incident.

In a statement on Sunday, Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said his organization “condemns ongoing comparisons to Nazis, and the misuse of the Holocaust, to measures being taken to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which has already killed over 145,000 Americans. Such comparisons are as reprehensible as they are historically inaccurate. They insult the memory of the Holocaust’s victims and survivors, and are deeply hurtful to most Jews and others whose communities were victimized.”

Hunegs expressed solidarity with the Jewish community and appreciation to Walmart for its response.

“In particular, such comparisons are an egregious affront to the elderly Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans living in Minnesota, and all those who perished in the Holocaust or fighting to defeat Nazi Germany,” he added.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest branch tweeted on Saturday, “Disgusted by this display of hate in Marshall, MN and shocked @walmart allowed this couple in the store in the first place. We tracked a 32% increase in antisemitic incidents in MN from 2018 to 2019 & 450% increase in white supremacist propaganda incidents in MN from 2017-2019.”

Disgusted by this display of hate in Marshall, MN and shocked @walmart allowed this couple in the store in the first place. We tracked a 32% increase in antisemitic incidents in MN from 2018 to 2019 & 450% increase in white supremacist propaganda incidents in MN from 2017-2019. https://t.co/5KeKd5PQpO

— ADL Midwest (@ADLMidwest) July 26, 2020

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JNS on Monday that “the misuse, misappropriation and abuse of Nazis, [Adolf] Hitler and swastikas is an unfortunate part of our political landscape,” and “it’s usually an indication of whoever is using it doesn’t have that strong of an argument or definitely needs to get a reaction.”

“It’s outrageous, it’s unacceptable, it’s demeaning,” he added.

 

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