SANFORD, Fla. – The left front window of A&N Sports on 17-92 in Sanford is covered with large lettering that reads: “Our Bill of Rights is Unchangeable & Unalterable. What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ is not understood?”
Under the letter hangs a poster of Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler wearing a swastika on a red armband.
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The poster contains a quote that it attributes to Hitler: “This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police will be more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future.”
A&N Sports owner Bert Nelson admitted one of his customers contested whether it was Hitler who actually said that, but insisted that’s not the point.
“You know the history, how many people died needlessly because of the feelings of a crazy man,” Nelson said. “Eleven million people died because of that nut [Hitler]. That nut brings attention to that sign that says this nation will go down in history as the first time a civilized nation has full gun registration. And we don’t want that type of mentality to come to America.”
Nelson, who has owned the gun shop for 44 years, said he hasn’t received any complaints about his poster until today. In fact, Nelson claimed just the opposite, that customers have asked to take pictures in front of his sign, his Jewish friends included.
“I will try not to do anything that hurts anyone’s feelings, but looking at a sign that’s a picture of Hitler, how can that hurt anyone’s feelings, that’s a picture of bad history,” Nelson said.
Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando Executive Director Keith Dvorchik and Holocaust Center interim CEO Shelley Lauten said the image of Hitler is painfully upsetting.
“My first reaction was horror,” Dvorchik said. “Anytime you see a picture of Adolf Hitler on a building like that, your stomach drops, your jaw drops. It really is hard. What are these people thinking, what are they saying? Why do they hate us, why are they so comfortable with that type of imagery screaming hatred?”
Lauten said so many other symbols would be less hurtful and send just as strong a message, like George Washington resisting the British.
“To use a symbol that goes back to a dictator of World War II who annihilated millions and millions of people, it’s the wrong symbol,” Lauten said. “Such disappointment that we’ve been working so hard for so many years on building a community that is focused on eliminating anti-Semitism and bigotry. And yet it happens daily in our community.”
Nelson said he is not racist nor an anti-Semite.
“I think we’re pretty American here,” Nelson said. “I can see that they should have read the sign but no I can’t go along with that, that’s a picture of anything. You got to take it in the context in which it is presented.”
Dvorchik said Hitler’s picture distracts from any message Nelson is trying to convey.
“It says we hate people,” Dvorchik said. “We hate Jews. We hate the LGBTQ community. We hate people with disabilities, we hate Gypsies, we hate anyone who’s different from us. And that’s the image that it sends regardless of what the intent is.”
Hitler murdered 6 million Jews and 5 million others.
“I think that they should look past the attention-getter and see what the sign says,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he will gladly have a conversation with Dvorchik and Lauten and listen to them but will not change the poster.
“Not now, now that this has happened,” Nelson said. “Because I’m definitely not anti-Semitic, I believe in freedom of speech, and I believe that we have the right to keep and bear arms.”