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February 14, 2013 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-14

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Craig Fahle


The view from inside the overpass with the hateful sign partially torn down

some nasty messages on his blog;
some accusing him of "censorship:'
But, Wilcox stands by his decision to
remove it.
"If that horrible sign was an act of
free speech, then so was us tearing
it down:' he says. "The person who
made the sign chose imagery that
is radioactive and unacceptable and
they displayed it in a public place
with apparently no concern for who it
would injure. If it's street art or graffiti,
then it exists according to the rule of
the street. That means it can get buffed
or written over or destroyed:'

Community Outrage
Heidi Budaj, regional director of
the Detroit chapter of the Anti-
Defamation League, condemned the
Auschwitz message, pointing out the
infamous slogan was used by Nazis
to taunt and dehumanize prisoners.
In a strongly worded statement, she
called the graffiti an "intentional and
malicious act" The Anti-Defamation
League is the world's leading organiza-
tion fighting anti-Semitism, prejudice,
bigotry and hatred.
"The prominent display of this
quote at a historic Detroit landmark is
disturbing and deeply offensive to vic-
tims of the Holocaust and those who
fought valiantly in World War IL" she
said. "The fact that the perpetrators
inverted the letter B, in a copy of the
distinct lettering in the original sign at
Auschwitz, is especially chilling. This
message strikes at the very memory
of a symbol representing the cruel
cynicism of Nazism. This sign greeted
more than 1 million prisoners as they
were herded into the Auschwitz night-
mare with the duplicitous message
that 'work sets you free:"
According to the initial Free Press
report, Huntington Woods resident,
David Schulman, 53, reported the sign
to the ADL. He told the newspaper he
came across it while driving past the
area recently. He also said his grand-
mother had family members murdered

in the Holocaust.
"It's a form of hate speech:'
Schulman is quoted as saying. "It
really appalled me:'
Schulman did not respond to calls
or a Facebook request for comment.
The Packard Plant, designed by
architect Albert Kahn, dates back
to the early 1900s. In its heyday, it
employed 36,000 workers; the last
Packard luxury car rolled off the
assembly line in 1954. The city of
Detroit and state of Michigan fore-
closed on the property in 1993. While
the Detroit City Council has approved
demolition, the 3.5-million-square-
foot facility just sits there, deteriorat-
ing, on a more than 40-acre site. Fires
break out regularly and scrappers,
graffiti artists, photographers, home-
less people and other curious onlook-
ers trespass constantly. There's a legal
dispute over who owns the infamous
ruins. Troy attorney John Bologna rep-
resents Dominic Cristini who says he
is the plant's owner.
"This is a disgusting act:' Bologna
is quoted as saying. He told reporters
he intended to have the sign taken
down, but Leibovitch and Wilcox got
to it first.
Stephen Goldman, executive direc-
tor of the Holocaust Memorial Center
in Farmington Hills also spoke out
about the Packard Plant sign and said
he was glad to hear a Holocaust sur-
vivor's grandson helped take it down.
It's unclear who posted the message or
why. In blogs and other online forums,
people debated whether it was an act
of hate or some kind of artistic state-
ment on the downfall of manufactur-
"There is no good point; what is the
point?" Goldman said in a TV inter-
view. "Who are they trying to get a
message to and what is that message?
The only thing it shows is that there are
anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and
those people who just don't care what
their fellow citizens think. Our survi-
vors are appropriately dismayed:'

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