Swastika flag part of longtime display in downtown window

A letter to the editor complaining about the display of a Nazi swastika flag in a downtown storefront has sparked a lot more than the usual number of online comments from Grand Haven Tribune readers. Wynnewood, Pa., resident Sarah Franzel, who visited Grand Haven recently, said in her letter published Tuesday: "I don't know why someone would display this particular piece of history. I feel it is a bad judgment to do so.' Franzel said she also took issue with the citizens of Grand Haven "for tolerating this display of racial hatred.'
Becky Vargo
Jul 27, 2011

 

The flag she is referring to is part of a display of World War I and World War II artifacts in the front window of the Glo Barber Shop, 209 Washington Ave. The display is just one section of the many historical items that covers the walls and shelves of the historic building.

To read Franzel's letter, click here.

Owner Ron Prelesnik said he is aware of the letter and the comments, but he is ignoring the whole thing.

“It’s stuff I’ve collected through the years,” he said. “It’s been there about 10 years, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Many online comments were tolerant of the display, noting that it was all a part of history. Some comments suggested the display was offensive and hurtful.

“It would be an ignorant person indeed that would display such a symbol in a storefront and without considering how many people they are alienating, offending and hurting in the process,” wrote a commenter called Observer.

In the longtime barber’s defense, a commenter called Jimfromoutoftown wrote that Prelesnik is “showing off some of his war memorabilia to his clientele. It’s not some racist conspiracy. Atrocities happened during World War II. I would rather remember those atrocities to make sure they never happen again instead of sticking our head in the sand.”

Most people interviewed on the sidewalk outside the barber shop on Tuesday said they took no offense with the display.

However, a Rochester woman who declined to give her name said she was “definitely offended.” She did note that she would not be offended if the display was across the street at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, with some kind of explanation written about the display.

Grand Haven resident Julie Taylor, who was downtown Tuesday running errands, said she often takes a look at the window.

“My great-grandparents were killed in the Holocaust,” she said. “My grandfather committed suicide because his family was killed.”

Still, Taylor said she looks at the window and sees history. “And (the swastika flag) is a part of history,” she added.

Megan Needham, owner of Aberdeen’s, which is next door to the Glo Barber Shop, said she also had no problem with the display.

“To me, it’s all collectors items,” she said. “It’s just a cool display.”

Needham said people stop in her store all the time to ask how they can get in touch with the barber to look at, or even possibly purchase, some of the artifacts.

“I don’t think anything in there is meant to be offensive,” she said.

Carl Freundl of Oshkosh, Wis., said he had uncles fighting for both America and Germany in World War II. “They fought each other,” he said.

Freundl, who is in town this week to visit family and attend a popcorn conference in Grand Rapids, said he has a Nazi armband on display in his living room. It was an item brought back from the war by one of his uncles.

“It’s out there for everyone to see,” he said.

Freundl said the Nazi swastika is part of history.

“It’s actually something you look at with pride — we knocked it out,” he said of the Nazi flag. “A lot of guys died for that — to take that out. ... It’s just something that happened. It’s a part of history and you can’t change it.”

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Comments

trycompassion

The way we each view and interpret history is a matter of by our age, personal history, where we live, and what we've learned. When I first noticed the Swastika, I went into the Barber Shop to ask the proprietor if he realized that some in the community would be hurt and offended to see this symbol so visibly displayed. As I recall, I was told it was my problem, not his. The proprietor's tone made me quite uncomfortable. I contacted the Downtown Business group and was told that there was nothing they could do. I agree. I only hope that this is truly a teaching moment. The Swastika was a symbol used by Nazis to terrorize the Jewish population in Germany and occupied countries. To me it is still hateful and frightening. I would hope that Mr. Prelesnik would consider giving it less prominence in his window..

nativeSLer

I would like to add that the people that are natives to this area also know that there is a very well respected African American family that had lived in GH for many many years so please leave color out of this discussion because it isn't true! The Howard family are a great family and have lived in GH for a very long time.

Kylepetty

Nativesler .......OMG is this post a joke?????

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