Free Speech? Yes. Acceptable? Not remotely.

Editorial: Nazi flag represents humanity’s worst

📸Shaun Moriarty photos from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

They systematically murdered millions upon millions of men, women and children. Innocent civilians whose lives were brutally ended for no reason other than their religious beliefs, their ethnic heritage, their sexual orientation, their political beliefs, their physical disabilities, their cognitive handicaps, and more. The Nazis were the most depraved, despicable, horrid, and repulsive people to walk this Earth.

Earlier this week, many in Southbridge became aware of one resident’s decision to fly a Nazi battle flag on his Guelphwood Road property. The Citizen Chronicle recognizes this individual has the legal right to hang this feverishly foul flag, its an act protected under the First Amendment — the same Constitutional provision that guarantees our hyperlocal digital news outlet can pen our very first official editorial in explaining why one’s freedom of expression is American while stressing every single thing that flag represents is abhorrent to each and every American ideal.

Two area high school students view a tower of portraits and photos on display as part of a permanent exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The person flying this flag, his name has been reported by other news organizations but will not garner any mention in this editorial, has backpedaled when asked by reporters about the flag. Several hours after a local resident shared a photo of the Nazi battle flag via social media, it was taken down and replaced with an Army of Tennessee battle flag (more commonly, and erroneously, referred to as the Confederate flag) emblazoned with “Don’t tread on me” — a flag also representative of a horrid, violent, and racist agenda. The property owner told a Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter earlier this week that he wouldn’t confirm or deny flying the Nazi battle flag, and on Thursday told WHDH the flag was taken “out of context,” and warned “this country will become like Nazi Germany” due to illegal immigration.

Out of context? It is unclear what sort of context one can justify flying a Nazi battle flag to show their love for the United States — a country that sent nearly 11 percent of its citizens into World War II to stop the Nazis and their allies.

Let us provide the historical context that surrounds the flag flown by one man that has rightly concerned and upset countless residents.

We live in a world where far too many people, a growing number really, believe the Holocaust never happened, or that it has somehow been overblown. Most historians estimate roughly 6,000,000 Jewish people were slaughtered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, with more than 12,000,000 civilians killed at the hands of the Nazis. These people were not just Jewish; they were homosexuals, they were physically and/or mentally challenged, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were gypsies, and they were just about anyone who dared to defy the Nazi regime in any way.

Some in our coverage area have had the good fortune to have met Holocaust survivors, learning about the atrocities they endured at the hands of the Nazis. One such survivor was Thea Aschkenase, a Worcester resident who passed away less than three months ago. Thea’s heart-wrenching story had been shared with countless students across the Commonwealth (and beyond), bringing to life a horrible history. Thea eloquently spoke of the conditions she and her mother had somehow survived while interred at Auschwitz, the tragedy of her brother being taken away and ultimately killed, and most vividly her retelling of the moment she watched smoke and ash billow out of a smokestack while another prisoner essentially laughed at her, the “foolish girl” who had no clue what the monsters running the camp would do, and do immediately after the family’s arrival. She spoke of a smokestack near her home in Worcester that always evoked images and memories of her father as a result.

Holocaust survivor Thea Aschkenase sharing her story with students at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer in March 2016.

The atrocities committed are unspeakable, yet must be spoken of — they must be spoken of often and loudly so they are remembered. After the end of World War II, Dwight Eisenhower warned us of the need to remind us of these atrocities soon after he and the Allies liberated camps: “The things I saw beggar description … the visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering … I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda.”

The individual now flying that heinous Nazi flag on Guelphwood Road has the right to do so. We won’t argue with that. However, we all have the right to make clear our feelings on his display. We all have a right to utilize our First Amendment rights and express why such a despicable display is unacceptable to us as a community.

Our own flag has its own history, and it can be a difficult symbol for some when viewed in certain lenses, but we’ve been proud to have it reflected within The Citizen Chronicle logo since our inception. Please, remember what that red, white and blue flag did do to help stomp out that crooked cross in Germany some 70 years ago. Let’s not forget the horrors the Nazis were responsible for. Let’s not forget the people lost senselessly.

As Elie Wiesel reminded us, “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice.”


3 thoughts on “Free Speech? Yes. Acceptable? Not remotely.

  1. Thank you for writing this. It needs to be said and repeated, for I fear no one wants to read every word to truly understand your point.

  2. Thank you for this. It is appalling and sad to see how eagerly people feel to demonstrate their hate and paranoia. But we must call out for what it is – each and every time it rears its ugly head. As the poet and philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must not repeat these atrocities, and we must stem the flow of hatred and ignorance.

  3. I do agree that Free Speech is never to be abridged, regardless of the offensiveness or minority thought it may reflect. The marketplace of ideas will see foul thought quieted without one hand of subversion or violence. When people act against free speech, it only shows the real threat an idea poses due to validity. Lets respect everyone’s freedom of speech.

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