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Reversal: Hitler's Desk Will Not Be Shown At Saratoga Springs Gun Show

The Saratoga Springs City Center as seen from the steps of Temple Sinai.
Lucas Willard
The Saratoga Springs City Center as seen from the steps of Temple Sinai.

News that Nazi memorabilia, including a desk once used by Adolph Hitler, would be displayed at a gun show in Saratoga Springs was upsetting for many. As WAMC first reported today, hours after it was announced the items would appear during Labor Day weekend, the organizer of the event agreed to remove them from the show.

Saratoga Springs City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon told WAMC Thursday morning that Hitler’s desk would not be shown inside the venue.

“I spoke with the event organizers and this will not be happening,” said McMahon.

The desk used by the facist dictator of Nazi Germany during World War II was to be included in a collection of other items as part of the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates gun show, an event that happens several times a year in the Spa City.

But after McMahon read about the materials Thursday morning, he contacted event organizer David Petronis, who agreed not to display the pieces.

There was backlash among neighbors, too. Notably, the Temple Sinai Jewish synagogue is located across the street from the City Center.

Petronis said he hadn’t realized the synagogue, which is located on Broadway, was there.

“If I knew the synagogue was there, I might even have asked the question of whether we could do the desk in any particular way, showing that …how the Nazi era was over. And that was our intent with doing that, not certainly promoting Nazism because we were trying to display a piece of history,” said Petronis.

Petronis said while sending out online materials for the show on Labor Day weekend, he was also been busy planning for an arms fair this weekend in Newburgh and did not consider the reaction that might arise from neighbors.

“It’s a very vulnerable time to be Jewish.”

Michael Marx, president of Temple Sinai, said he received many emails from members of the congregation about the news.

“To see such outspokenness from the neo-Nazi movement and the white supremacy movement that’s targeting it that way. So to find that memorabilia from Hitler or World War II and the Nazi regime just seemed unconscionable.”

The desk is part of a collection headed to an auction later this year in Ohio.  Petronis says regardless of whether it is displayed at his gun show, it will be bought by somebody.

“I have no feelings for the item itself, so if somebody wants to pay a half-a-million dollars I’ll give them the lighter fluid and the match to burn it, if they wish,” said Petronis.

Less than two weeks after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that claimed the life of a counter-protestor, communities around the country have been holding vigils and rallies against neo-Nazism, racism, and hate speech.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, a Democrat, earlier this year called for the creation of a Human Rights Task Force.

The task force was already scheduled to hold a march and vigil downtown Thursday evening. 

“People were very upset in Saratoga Springs, so I think the walk and the vigil that we’re doing, ‘All Are Welcome Here,’   is the message that I certainly want to get out to our city and to everyone that comes to visit us, as the mayor of this city,” said Yepsen.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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