Illinois governor Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker on Saturday condemned the use of the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” (literally: work makes you free), which was hung over the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, at Friday’s “Re-open Illinois” demonstration. The sign, which was carried by a woman wearing an American flag face mask, read “Arbeit Macht Frei, JB.”
This was one of the signs at the “Re-open Illinois” event today. She assured those that she was not a Nazi, and stated, “I have Jewish friends.” Thank you for representing yourself and your “movement” for what it is. pic.twitter.com/CcIX2SVu6s
— Dennis Kosuth, RN (@Dennis_Kosuth) May 1, 2020
Governor Pritzker is a member of the Pritzker family, a Jewish family prominent in business and philanthropy, which has been near the top of the Forbes’ “America’s Richest Families” list since 1982. His sister, Penny Pritzker, served as President Obama’s Secretary of Commerce.
The Nazi jab was clearly aimed at the governor’s Jewish heritage, although the woman who carried the sign told reporters she had many Jewish friends.
Gov. Spitzer tweeted Saturday night: “Yesterday, there were quite a number of people protesting by carrying signs filled with hate. I’ll defend to the death their right to be wrong and to say it out loud. But if you look at the facts, the experts are trying to protect them.”
Referring to the Nazi symbols at Friday’s rally, the governor said: “I’ve spent decades of my life fighting against bigotry & hatred. I helped build the Illinois Holocaust Museum by working with Holocaust survivors. The meaning of that swastika is apparently unknown to the people who are carrying it, or if it is known, it’s a demonstration of the hate that is among us.”
“These were a few hundred demonstrators yesterday — but there are millions of people in the state who are doing the right thing, protecting each other during this extraordinary crisis. I am so grateful to live in a state with those millions of really good people,” the governor said.
Illinois has been one of the hardest hit states, and on Saturday, Illinois health officials reported 2,450 additional known coronavirus cases, after Friday marked the first time more than 3,000 new cases were diagnosed in Illinois. This brings the total number of cases in the state to 58,505, with 105 new deaths, for a statewide total death toll of 2,559.
Yet Illinois seems to be a strong hold of resistance to state-imposed restrictions on public gathering, and on Friday night Chicago Police broke up a number of house parties and more were expected Saturday night.
Finally, we can’t run a story about Illinois Nazis without this immortal Blues Brothers clip: