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

Kylepetty

The flag is just the tip of the iceberg. The cross on Dewey hill for instance does not reflect the view of all of the people of grand haven so why is it displayed on public property...the nativity scene on Dewey hill is another great example of a city as a whole pushing their Christian way of life. When I go downtown i do not want to hear the word of the lord over loud speakers. There are a lot of churches here in grand haven why does the city need to have their cross and nativity scene on display? The grand haven public safety department is a all white force? You look at the teacher in the local school and see nothing but white people?.The reason why is because people of different faiths and color/greed do not want to work or live here because of all of the little things the city does to make it uncomfortable. The city is not a very welcoming place for anybody but a white person.

Jinxed329

More specifically a white Christian!

Yaright

and protestant

What She Said

Like it or not, the Swastika and racial hatred ARE a part of this countrys history and removing reminders from storefronts won't change that. Education and tolerance will prevent us from repeating history.

What She Said

Like it or not, the Swastika and racial hatred ARE a part of this countrys history and removing reminders from storefronts won't change that. Education and tolerance will prevent us from repeating history.

dyankee

The display is appropriately done and reminds us of history and what can happen when a government or a radical leader or political party is left unchecked. Our own country is coming dangerously close of heading down this same path with this current administration and the American people(like Germany in the 1930's & 1940's) are a sleep at the wheel.

Go down to the Coast Guard Festival this year and in 10 minutes you'll find pierced nosed little punks with orange hair, perverted tatoos, paint huffing mustaches, and stained vomit on their shirts and no one says a thing....place a flag in a store front display case highlighting factual history and all hell breaks loose.

As for Kylepetty comments: No one is forcing you to look at the Cross on Dewey Hill. Actually no one is forcing you to look at the Coast Guard Station, boats in the channel, the Kirby, Meijers, Lake Michigan, the Pronto Pup stand, the sun, or Tip-a-Few Tavern. So, learn to get along with people. We all are disqusted to read your comments....but we don't have to. See how it works? Why don't you petition the town of Hamtramck, Michigan to stop the the Islamic call to prayer that is blasted over loud speakers 6 times a day. Once you're successful here then, I'll see what I can do about your offense of hearing the Lords word. A suggestion might be to grab ahold of the cross on Dewey Hill during a fearce thunderstorm and scream your complaints to the Lord perhaps, you may grab his attention. In addition, lets look at the Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Benton Harbor and Detroit area school districts, their police force, and throw in the State of Michigan Entitlement Office and do your study based on race and get back to us with your findings.

Yaright

"Go down to the Coast Guard Festival this year and in 10 minutes you'll find pierced nosed little punks with orange hair, perverted tatoos, paint huffing mustaches, and stained vomit on their shirts and no one says a thing."
"Actually no one is forcing you to look at the Coast Guard Station, boats in the channel, the Kirby, Meijers, Lake Michigan, the Pronto Pup stand, the sun, or Tip-a-Few Tavern. So, learn to get along with people. "

No one is forcing you to look either....another hypocrite lives among us

Kylepetty

First and foremost there is no "lord" to scream too!!!!! Sorry to ruin your life. And yes I am forced to look at the cross every time I go downtown. I bet you can find one of these crosses in a church where it belongs. Why should I have to look at the symbol of Christianity !!!!! It does not belong on public property keep it in your church..

Boater

Why are liberals so intolerant? It's so silly and transparent.

Harry Kovaire

Waaaaaa waaaaaaaa white people make me uncomfortable. You ALL need to change so I am not offended or uncomfortable!

dyankee

PileofPetty: So, if you do not think there is a Lord then, what are you waiting for. Set down your joint and porn mag. a run up top of Dewy Hill during a lighting storm and scream it to all of us schmucks down below and see what happens. Some day when you watch your child being born or end up in a fox hole(unlikely) with bullets flying past you, you'll change your mind about Atheism. I suppose you want the pledge of allegiance changed along with removing in God we Trust on our currency and all the cross' removed at Arlington? This country was founded on Christian values. If you don't like it you're free to leave....its called freedom. Run over to the Middle East and demand the Koran is removed from public places and see how long your head stays on your shoulders.

Kylepetty

I do not think anyone can be as ignorant as you. By the way who in this world does not like to get high and have sex ? Hello.......By the way I am going to Dewey hill right now in hopes of being saved or hit with lighting which every comes first.

dyankee

Yawrong: I'm not asking the City of Grand Haven to take down the degenerates like PileofPetty is asking to do with the cross on Dewy Hill. This does not make me or anyone else a hypocrite and it makes you wrong...again. Why don't you add an intelligent perspective to this conversation, instead of trying to pounce on an opportunity to make yourself look like the higher moral athority? See, you're doing it again, because you think I spelled "authority" wrong. What a child.

Yaright

Are you high?

Yaright

Dskankee, read this again , really I'm pouncing? You sound like you have been passed over one to many times. Maybe a case of little man syndrome. I you are comical telling me to add an intelligent piece when all you do is attack like a pissy 3 yr old who got your candy taken away. I dunno why u didn't answer. Probly busy slugging pabst, watching NASCAR, hanging out in lawn furniture enjoying a fresh pack of camels. What a redneck

Yaright

Dskankee, read this again , really I'm pouncing? You sound like you have been passed over one to many times. Maybe a case of little man syndrome. I you are comical telling me to add an intelligent piece when all you do is attack like a pissy 3 yr old who got your candy taken away. I dunno why u didn't answer. Probly busy slugging pabst, watching NASCAR, hanging out in lawn furniture enjoying a fresh pack of camels. What a redneck

wldywall

That display is done well, it is a display of things soldiers bring home from war. Like it or not, people brought home Nazi flags, Japanese flags, and all other sorts of stuff. There is NOTHING in that display that suggests that the flag is there to support Nazism, racism, or intolerance. For those of you who have an issue with it, well think for a minute. We do what you suggest, get rid of that flag, then lets get rid of every single reminder of WWII and the holocaust, just so you are not offended by it, well then what have we accomplished? You feel comfortable and we have ignored one of the worst time periods in world history. We get rid of the reminders and eventually we will have death camps again, and who will they come for this time? I have studied the holocaust for many years, I have been to the death camps, I would never suggest a historical display including that flag needs to go. I want it in peoples faces, it is the ONLY way to remind people of how wrong prejudice can go. We must never forget, so it is not repeated, and to honor those who died. (as I recall it was a common complaint that having those flags around was a real problem and should not be accepted at one other time in US history which is very significant, the 1930's and 40's, people did not want that stuff around, did not want the stories in the paper about the death camps, did not want to know what was going on, when we could still do something) Don't like prejudice, don't forget the past or try to make it go away. That will only give prejudice a place to grow freely

sobe

If this is truly a display of historical nature, then it would be necessary to post a caption in the window, like one would see in a museum, to explain this to passers-by, i.e. what are we looking at and why is it there? He clearly wants people to look at it since it is in the storefront. If he is a history buff, he is aware that displaying a swastika without context can be shocking to some. Yet Mr. Prelsnik's omission and refusal to address this publicly, while his display is very public in nature given its location in a main street storefront, leads some to interpret his statement as one of intolerance or at least confrontation. I've lived here for four years and love this town and its people, but I was also taken aback and felt uncomfortable when I first saw it and wondered: what is the underlying message here?

Rogdoger

Thank You Sobe

GrandHavenJohn

Sobe, here's a tip: When you look look at someone artistic expression, you are supposed to open your mind see it from different sides. If the artist is required to post a billboard for you, to explain it, in it's most politically correct interpretations, so that you are not offended, it defeats the purpose of making you think. Anone but the most closed-minded would see the display as tibute, not as "intollerant" or "confrontational" and that, sadly, is a reflection on our society, not on Mr. Prelesnik.

sobe

This is not art.

sobe

There is much art censorship here, and would one have a show of art that desecrates religious symbols, it would be met with much less apathy than the unexplained display of a swastika flag.

GrandHavenJohn

Sobe you'r right, art is probaby the wrong word. I'll change my description of the exhibit as creative expressionism. What I think a lot of people are missing is that the nazi flag is but one part of larger exhibit. I'm reminded of a cliche about missing the forrest for looking at the trees. There are lots of interesting things in the window, I wonder how many people have actually studied it or if they just heard about the flag and got all indignant, hurt, offended and started weeping annonymously on the internet. How can you create a World War II exhibit and not have something symbolic of Nazi Germany? Should he have written the word "Germany" on a sign and included that in the exhibit instead? How about picture of old Adolph himself? would that be better? Nice chatting with everyone, now I have to run, the History Channel is airing a special on Hitler's final days in the bunker. I hope I don't see anything that hurts my feelings though, I may have to call the FCC, ACLU, DNC, Al Sharpton etc.... to complain. Oh and by the way, don't expect any explainations from Ron. I don't think he cares what the people who can't begin to grasp much less appreciate what our Country has been through or, more importantly where it's headed.

GHRuss

Well said, wldywall. Before my father-in-law passed many years ago I got him to tell me about what he saw when his US Army unit liberated a German concentration camp toward the end of WWII. It was not pleasant. I keep hearing claims that the holocost never happened. I believe that it did happen and the display in Ron's window is a mild reminder of that war (even if he doesn't intend it as such). I also believe that those who ignore (or forget) history are doomed to relive it. I hope we collectively remember, so nothing like that ever happens again.

wldywall

GHRuss, yes the holocaust did happen. Standing in the gas chamber at Auschwitz I was a shock, the Zyklon B leaves strange stains and shadows on the walls, the blood stains in swirled patterns on the floors of the crematorium. Next to the doors of every "bunkhouse" (stable in reality) in Birkenau there is an indent, roughly 5ft10in long, wide enough for two bodies, a permanent curve in the ground. Like the buffalo wallows of the west, the only thing I saw grow in those was violets. You can smell death in the old buildings in both part of the camps (trust me I know the smell of death a long time ago I worked in a funeral home.....and I am not referring to the formaldehyde smell) The shocking thing is during my nearly 3 hour tour, our guide kept telling us things that WERE NOT true! I had to keep asking him questions, prompting, anything to get him to admit the truth. He kept saying very few Jews and Gypsies died at Auschwitz. He said over and over, mostly Poles died here, the stories about the numbers of Jews is wrong.....yet the guides speaking to the German and French tours were giving the correct numbers. In Auschwitz I during the last years of the war, mostly Poles died there, but for the entire complex, including Birkenau, mostly Jews died. (from the Nazis books) Never forget, and never let people change the truth to fit what they find the most comfortable. The Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia,etc must be remembered, must be honored. It is because to many want to forget, that events like Darfur continue to happen....
Off my soap box now...

GrandHavenJohn

wldywall:

I could not have said it better myself.

I will add that the display was put up by a wonderful man whom I have known and admired for 40 years. Ron is history buff, particularly fascinated by WW2 and keening interested in native american history. His love for our Country and our community is beyond reproach. He put up the display; not the City of Grand Haven, not the people of Grand Haven, just Ron. It has nothing with Grand Haven as community and everthing to do with a man seeking to pay tribute to our veterans, our active servicemen and the struggles our great Country has been through to make it what it is today.

If you want to get your hair cut and more importantly learn something interesting and "real", go sit in his chair, talk about whatever strikes your fancy that day, and appreciate a little piece of local history named Ron Prelesnik. You'll walk out the door both wiser and better looking. It will set you back $15, money well spent.

If you want to whine, well, this is a good place for you.

wldywall

Thanks for the comments about my.. um comment. I will look into getting my hair cut there, always love to chat with a fellow history buff

Listen people, I challenge you. Stand for 5-10 minutes and look at every historical artifact that he has in that window. Ask yourself how it got here? Who picked it up? Who brought it home? Why? I never needed a sign, I knew it was what people brought home from that war. Yes I am a historian, in every sense of that word. I know my WWII history, but even my children who do not totally share my love of history understood that display is of what soldiers bring home from war.

To be honest, really honest about WWII, we should be MORE offended by a Japanese flag because of Pearl Harbor and of OUR disgraceful treatment of Japanese Americans during the war....yet I have NEVER heard one American complain about inappropriate uses of memorabilia from the part of WWII history.

ZTTim

Hey KP....Abraham Lincoln said it best...."Better to keep your mouth closed and thought a fool...than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

g.vandersteldt

.

GHLiving

You have got to be kidding me...I have no words to respond to gvanderstelts post in an appropriate manner.

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