EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—While Menominee Police continue to investigate the vandalism of the Menominee Lighthouse, .
Gary Hartwig, who grew up in Marinette, said he saw early photos of the graffiti posted on Facebook that appeared to be swastikas like those the Nazis used as their symbol in Germany during World War II when millions of Jews were sent to concentration camps and killed under Adolf Hitler’s regime.
“I saw the picture when it was first on Facebook and then it was taken down,” Hartwig said. “It’s a sign of ignorance and inability to recognize that the color of your skin should not make any difference in a global world,” he said.
Michael Kaufman, executive director of the Menominee Historical Society, which provides regular tours of the Lighthouse during the summer, said he saw the swastikas before the graffiti was removed. “We have foreign ships from Denmark in the port. They’re going to see that and say what a crappy little town,” Kaufman said. “They were invaded during World War II.”
But Kaufman said he doubted those who defaced the lighthouse fully understood how their messages would be received. “These are going to be very young people who did this,” he said. “They wouldn’t have any knowledge of the Nazi generation.”
Based on the other derogatory messages painted about the Menominee Maroons, such as “Maroons suck,” Kaufman said, they were trying to get a rise out of people. “They seemed close to illiterate, rather than specifically Nazi,” he said.
Another graffiti message with the letters WECK was spotted on the back of a sign at the waterfront playground last weekend. “I don’t know what WECK would be, but they do,” Kaufman said. Graffiti taggers often use their own signature symbols. In the past, they’ve tagged the WPS power boxes used for street lights, Kaufman said. “You’ve got to get this stuff off right away. You can’t just leave this stuff up there,” he said.
Hartwig is concerned about the damage to the community of hate messages applied to the lighthouse in particular.
“The lighthouse is kind of a symbol or gateway to the Marinette-Menominee area. It blemished the whole community, which is comprised of a lot of really proud people,” he said. “They’ve done a lot to really improve the harbor and make that a destination over the years. This just really sets it back.”
Hartwig said the current situation doesn’t compare with how this country united to fight the Nazis. His father flew 65 missions in World War II and fought the Nazi regime, Hartwig said. Despite the brutality of the war, “It was at a time when we were living with the greatest generation ever,” he said. “The country pulled together like we’ve never seen before.”
Today, he said, “The truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore.” He blames a lack of government leadership and poor management of the internet. “The lies and corruption are just sickening,” Hartwig said. It’s been a problem for 20 years. “It’s caught up to us now,” he said.