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I was waiting for a meeting to begin when a friend brought a photo to my attention. It featured a pronounced German-Gothic font. My mind was flooded with Nazi images. I was filled with a sense of revulsion.

Is “Hindenburg” a Buzz Word?!—Rosemary Jenkins

Is “Hindenburg” a Buzz Word?!—Rosemary Jenkins

I looked more closely and the words “Hindenburg Park” screamed out at me. Hindenburg?! The second president of the ill-fated Weimar Republic. Hindenburg?! The weak leader who appointed Hitler as Chancellor. Hindenburg?! The man after whom the infamous airship was named. Hindenburg?! The man who died only three years before that gigantic blimp exploded. The man whose passing made way for Hitler to be the uncontested leader of the Third Reich with its bright red, white, and black flags waving proudly to announce unequivocally, “We, under this banner, shall create a new world order, an Aryan nation for white Protestants only—no Blacks or Jews or union members; no homosexuals, dissenters, or Catholics. None with mental or physical disabilities. The list of expendables was seemingly infinite.

I look even more closely. This section of the Crescenta Valley Park (to which the sign refers) falls under the authority of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. How do I know? The words are clearly written and to make it worse, the County seal has been placed on the sign, not just once but twice!

Later, I dug further and learned that back in the 1930s and ‘40s, many German-Americans marched and rallied there, in support of Nazi Germany and all that it stood for and promoting their parochial form of discrimination.

So how did this sign come into being? A privately funded group, known for its anti-Semitic leanings, paid for it. But why? To commemorate or pay tribute to a hateful time in our history? To join others, like the Trump haters, to insist that we are (or should be) a white nation? Take America back again”—a recent but incessant rant and refrain. But take it back where? To segregated schools and churches and neighborhoods, to separate entertainment venues and swimming pools, to xenophobia, to unequal employment opportunities, to red-lining and steering, to a time when women were kept out of nearly all but entry-level jobs, to a time when discrimination by religion or sexual preference was written into law, when far too many were not allowed to vote for the leaders who would make the laws under which they would try to survive?

Look again at the sign and part of it is emblazoned in German, Willkommen zum (Welcome to) this place where racism once permeated the atmosphere.

So offensive! So repulsive! So un-American in the true sense of the word. Are we moving forward or retreating in our national philosophy? Are lynchings (in every sense of that word) to be resurrected? Are we to be the progressive nation our forebears envisioned or are we to become the antithesis of our centuries-old creed?

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If there must be a sign, if there must be a name for this small section of the park, may I suggest a name that, to me, is more fitting? What about the name, Linus Pauling Park?

There has been so much blow-back and expressions of horror (thank goodness) over this sign that a community meeting has been planned for April (see below for details). The ask? To remove the sign and replace it with something that truly celebrates the innate goodness of our nation and that genuinely welcomes the greater community.

If there must be a sign, if there must be a name for this small section of the park, may I suggest a name that, to me, is more fitting? What about the name, Linus Pauling Park? Pauling was a German-American, living and working in our area, a giant in science, who received not only one but two Nobel Prizes. The first, in chemistry but, perhaps more importantly and significantly, the second was the Nobel Peace Prize. Thus, he was both a scientist and a peace activist as well as an author and educator.

Shouldn’t his be the name with which this park should be associated? Isn’t his name far more suitable? After all, he was truly one of us and his name has even been enshrined at the California Hall of Fame in greater Los Angeles. What a positive symbol his name would represent at an exquisite park that, in turn, deserves a name equal to its elegance?

Please, between now and the upcoming meeting, contact your County supervisor, particularly Michael Antonovich whose district contains this park venue. Contact County Parks and Recreation to register your concern over this matter. I must emphasize that this is not a free-speech issue so, at the same time, we should have nothing in our public facilities that motivates or promotes hateful thoughts or actions (remind yourself of what just transpired in Belgium and how easily people can be misguided by untoward language).

Please place this date on your calendar and plan on attending to voice your own objective opinions. Invite others to join you so that the powers-that-be will know, without question, what actions we want to take regarding our community and our history—past, present, and future.

The Hearing:

  • Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission
  • Sparr Heights Senior Center
  • 1613 Glencoe Way
  • Glendale 91208
  • Thursday, April 7, 4-6 p.m.

Rosemary Jenkins