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Hate Crime Victim: In Her Own Words

Jennifer Niman was one of three Sherman Oaks residents who discovered that swastikas had been drawn on their homes and cars. Niman's grandparents died in the Holocaust.

This email is from Jennifer Niman, one of the residents of Leghorn Avenue who discovered that a swastika had been drawn on her home.

Is it Germany 1938? No, it's Sherman Oaks 2012.

Welcome to Leghorn Ave., a lovely rural no-sidewalks kind of block between Magnolia and Chandler where everyone knows each other and often gather in the middle of the street to kibbitz.

Leghorn is a mixed block, we have all races and colors, we have all types of collars—professionals, tradespeople, celebrities, business owners, plumbers, doctors, etc.

Also all different religions, but someone decided to target the Jews. There are perhaps 15 Jewish families on the block, several Orthodox Jews in the mix.

Today, I was getting into my car at 11:20 to head over to a real estate business appointment and my neighbor to the south was just pulling into her driveway and although I was on the phone, she flagged me down and I could see she was distraught. I hung up and asked her what's up and she pointed to her beautiful stucco exterior wall and said: did you see this?

And there it was, in green crayon: a big swastika. I was shocked and told her: we have to call the police and report this as a hate crime! Then I said: let me check my house ... and I looked at my recently painted stucco mailbox on the curb, and on the top of it was another green swastika. I photographed both and ran to my meeting, telling my neighbor to please call the police and I'd be back in half an hour.

The police arrived shortly after I returned and asked me several times if I think this was a Hate Crime. I kept saying: what other type of crime do you think this could be? But they wanted to know if we were specifically targeted as Jews. I said I really don't know, but it would appear to be.

My neighbor down the block to the north noticed that her car was marked with a long green line,  appearing to be the same crayon or marker used for the swastikas. Then we found marking on 2 other cars parked on the block. One neighbor who has surveillance cameras cooperated with the police and they reviewed the tapes in the hopes of finding some helpful footage.

Then the police discovered a 3rd swastika, the largest of the 3, on my neighbor's newer home to the south, on the stucco pilaster (a lovely house which my husband custom built).

Then KTLA arrived and interviewed a few of us and took video footage of my neighbor's Dad scrubbing the swastika off the wall.
It was very surreal but when I thought about it I could not get over how this reminded me of what I read about in Holocaust literature about the atmosphere in Germany and Austria in the mid 1930's.

My mother is from Vienna and was rescued by the Kindertransport which took her and thousands of Austrian and German children ('Kinder") to England, whisked away from the horrors of Nazi Germany and Austria, most of them never to see their parents again.

My grandparents, devout Viennese Jews, were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

My grandfather, a Rabbi, had his beard cut by Nazi hoodlums in the street in Vienna, one of my mother's last memories of him.
For me to be going about my usual day and then find swastikas painted on 3 homes on my peaceful American block, is transporting me back to Nazi-occupied Austria and memories which are not mine, but feel like mine, because I have read about them, heard about them 1st hand from my Mom, and internalized them as my own.

Where are we? what is going on here?
Neighbors - please be vigilant and report suspicious characters to the police.
I am reminded of a German poem that goes something like this:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Roger C. Memos March 15, 2012 at 01:39 PM
My prayers go out to you, Jennifer and all affected by this terrible tragedy. I'm a filmmaker currently working on a feature documentary on actress- social activist Marsha Hunt, a Sherman Oaks resident since 1946. Marsha was involved with the United Nations Association back in the late 1950's & early 1960's back when talk of the UN was not so popular. 50 years ago, on February 1, 1962, while speaking at an event at Temple Sinai about the radical right, two of the speaker's homes were firebombed.- WHILE they were speaking. It shocked the nation because nothing had ever happened like this before. Marsha & the ministers response to this crime was to fight ignorance and fear by educating the community. Marsha helped to create a "Town Hall For Democracy" . It was a rally held at the Shrine Auditorium.. Prominent Senators such as Eugene McCarthy spoke out against this extremism. A year later, in April 1963, while Marsha was at a ceremony for the UNA where she was turning over the presidentship of her local UNA chapter, she received word that their UNA Gift shop /office had been firebombed. A swastika was painted on the building. It was a painful chapter in Marsha's life but she worked with organizations in the community like UNA to help spread the word that this is not acceptable behavior - and to look for answers. I pray that this situation is isolated & that those in the community will find comfort & support from family, friends and community. thanks, Roger C. Memos,
Deborah Forbes March 15, 2012 at 05:17 PM
My hope is that whoever is responsible will be caught and punished! But I suspect it may turn out to be some hooligans with no parental supervision and no aims or ambitions but to desecrate private property and create fear in our community. Are we looking for skinheads?
Jennifer Niman March 15, 2012 at 08:35 PM
thank you Roger and Deborah for your comments, greatly appreciated. Roger -wow, what a story. Deborah - the ADL is involved and does not think it's skinheads but rather as you said some wild older kids...my concern is how they know how to draw swastikas so well...these kids need a day (a week, a month perhaps) at the Simon Wiesenthal Center!
Ardy Lashkary March 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Horrible act of a brainless few.
Mike Wiener March 20, 2012 at 02:58 PM
The “poem” is from a 1946 speech by a German Protestant pastor Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) who himself spent part of the Nazi era a prisoner in a concentration camp: Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist. When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich nicht protestiert; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. Als sie die Juden holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Jude. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew. Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

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