The owners of a Castle Rock business have apologized after receiving swift backlash for posting a sign outside their shop invoking Nazi imagery to make a statement on Second Amendment rights and government overreach.
The image displayed on a digital sign outside Patriot Pros Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric showed a Nazi guard executing a Jewish concentration camp prisoner and was captioned, “Hitler gave Jews the gift of gun control you know, because he cared about their safety,” according to the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region.
The ADL “expressed concern” about the incident through a Dec. 5 statement from ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin and received calls from community members upset by the sign, according to a news release from the organization.
The ADL contacted the business “to express our view that Holocaust analogies should be avoided when talking about contemporary political and ideological debates,” Levin said in the statement.
“We pointed out that such a sign has an impact beyond what may have been intended,” Levin said. “The Holocaust will be forever remembered as one of the most horrific events of the 20th century. There is simply no equivalent event, historical or current, that compares with it.”
Levin said people should learn lessons from the Holocaust and seek to ensure that the “actions of Nazi Germany are never repeated,” but they should also avoid comparing it to modern-day events.
“Failure to do so not only cheapens the memory of millions killed by the Nazis, it also diminishes society's ability to effectively address the actual substance of the problem,” Levin said.
Sarah Hoggard co-owns the Patriot Pros location in Castle Rock with her husband, Javier Jesus Luna Ruiz Hoggard. Sarah said her husband, who is from Spain, is passionate about issues surrounding government overreach and preventing both communism and fascism.
“My husband, Javier, was looking up pictures on the internet and he likes to move and shake a little bit, he likes to get people thinking,” she said. “I don't think he thought about the insensitive nature of the picture. We do regret hurting people's feelings.”
Sarah Hoggard said the store removed the image after it received a complaint from a community member, although she could not recall if the sign was posted Dec. 4 or 5 or how long it was up. The sign had been removed by the time Levin issued a statement. They also spoke with a local rabbi and the ADL, who explained the photo's caption was “inappropriate.”
“We felt really bad. We wish we could go back and not have posted that picture. To say that we have lost sleep is an understatement. It's been very hard. We have done everything we have to to apologize.”
Sarah Hoggard said the couple has received death threats and their children have been cyberbullied since the incident. The couple contacted Castle Rock police regarding the threats, she said. Some community members have called the couple anti-Semitic for posting the sign, she said.
“My husband never meant to come across as anti-Semitic. That is not how we feel at all. Never have, never will,” she said.
Sarah said the couple believes Second Amendment rights and government overreach remain serious issues but they understand many people do not consider those issues "anywhere near the seriousness of what happened in the Holocaust and they felt that it was an insensitive comparison.”
A town spokeswoman provided a statement regarding the incident.
“Town councilmembers received complaints about the sign display and are glad it has been removed by the owner,” the statement said.