March 18, 2018
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HHRC Responds to “Gestapo” Graffiti on Portland Restaurant Window

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Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine Responds to “Gestapo” Graffiti on Portland Restaurant Window
AUGUSTA—Last month, a Portland restaurant owner reacted angrily to being shut down by state health inspectors for a variety of health code violations. The restaurant denounced “the new Gestapo of Augusta, Gov. LePage” in large, painted letters on its front windows.
Just this past summer, Governor LePage was widely criticized for comparing the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo. And while the words of private citizens do not carry the same power and symbolism that the words of our elected officials do, we as a people should not hesitate to condemn speech that is harmful and hateful.
The Gestapo was no ordinary police force. It harassed, tortured, and killed Hitler’s political enemies, helping create a culture of fear and suspicion. It helped Hitler maintain power through intimidation and repression. Comparing state health inspectors to the Gestapo is both historically inaccurate and offensive.
Americans of all political stripes, whether elected officials or private citizens, should resist making glib comparisons to the Nazis. By injecting Hitler thoughtlessly into our civic dialogue, we trivialize the evil that he and his followers committed. Once we demonize the opposition as Nazis, then there is little chance that we can find a resolution to our problems.
Issued on behalf of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine