Life Savers Ministries, a Christian organization located in Alabama recently quoted the bible and Adolf Hitler to promote their organization on a billboard in Auburn, Alabama. The advertisement features five children embracing with the following passage from the New Kings James Version Bible: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The featured text and content of the billboard, however, was the following quote from Hitler: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” Why would Life Savers Ministries use Hitler—the man responsible for the mass murder of approximately six million Jews as well as millions of homosexuals, mentally and physically disabled, Polish nationals and Slavs (many of whom were also Christian), Communists, Roma and Sinta, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other designated “a-socials” who were seen as a threat to Germanic racial purity—to endorse their organization?
Life Savers Ministries cannot claim ignorance – the horrific crimes of Hitler and the Third Reich are well documented and easily accessed. Dozens of Holocaust museums and memorials exist throughout the United States, including the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, located in Birmingham, Alabama, providing an experiential learning opportunity for those able to visit. In addition, online sources include the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Encyclopedia” and the Shoah Foundation’s “IWitness” online search engine. As a state, Alabama is well positioned to educate their students and citizens on the history of the Holocaust. Alabama Legislative Act HB 140 was passed in 1999 and established the Alabama Holocaust Commission, created to “survey, design, encourage, and promote implementation of ongoing Holocaust education and awareness programs of the Holocaust throughout the state.”
There are a number of resources available to Life Savers Ministries – why didn’t they utilize them?
Historical context aside, Life Savers Ministries is in need of a seminar series on morality. Why would an organization quote the man who led the Third Reich, a dictatorship that murdered millions in labor camps, ghettos, and death camps, as a source on how to positively impact the lives of children? How could an organization dedicated to serving underprivileged youth endorse the words of a man who orchestrated the T-4 euthanasia program, wherein over 70,000 psychiatric patients were mass murdered by their doctors and nurses throughout Germany? What kind of organization cites the man who created Hitler Youth, the mandatory group for German youth, through which “the government publicized its anti-Semitic and racial hygiene policies” (Debórah Dwork, Holocaust, p. 73)?
This begs the question: What was Life Savers Ministries intent when it quoted Adolf Hitler?
Fortunately, many agreed that their decision to quote Hitler was both alarming and disgusting. As a result of a request from Lamar Advertising, the agency that leased the space to Life Savers Ministries, the billboard was removed yesterday. But in many respects, the damage has already been done.