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‘Mein Kampf’ tattoo ignites firestorm for Boston PBS station

By Kase Wickman
Thursday, August 25, 2011 15:29 EDT
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WGBH, a public media hub in Boston, is drawing unwanted attention after choosing to put the subject of a Frontline documentary — and the “Mein Kampf” tattoo on his forearm — on the cover of their August member magazine, distributed to 150,000 members of the station.

David Nash appears in a composite photograph with four other people who have been the subjects of WGBH stories, with his arms crossed and the title of Adolf Hitler’s infamous manifesto clearly displayed tattooed along his forearm. Nash was central to the May 2010 Frontline documentary “The Wounded Platoon”, which chronicled the mental anguish many soldiers experience after multiple tours of duty and horrific experiences. (The story won a Peabody Award.) Nash and his story are also featured in a WGBH fundraising campaign.

Jeanne Hopkins, WGBH’s vice president for communications and government relations, sent an internal memo to station employees who had expressed concern after seeing Nash’s tattoo on the cover. She wrote a statement based on a conversation with Nash, from his point of view.

“Only part of the tattoo is visible,” the statement reads. “Those words are part of a larger phrase ‘my struggle is eternal’ (mein kampf ist ewig) that continues on my arm. This is an entirely personal statement that reflects struggles I have had in my own life, and is meaningful for me. It is not related to any other words or beliefs. I chose the tattoo in German because of my family heritage. I regret any misinterpretation, and I apologize if it has offended anyone.”

When contacted by Raw Story, she sent the same statement.

“It’s not what it appears to be,” Hopkins told Raw Story. “It has nothing to do with Hitler’s book. In fact, when he had this done, it was not even in awareness about the book.”

She said that no one had been concerned about the possible backlash to Nash’s tattoo when putting together the cover.

“To be honest with you, there was not an awareness of the tattoo,” she said. “No one had really looked closely to see what it was.”

Asked whether she was concerned that WGBH could be subject to race-centric criticism — just like NPR faced after the firing of Juan Williams and the video about racism in the tea party that led to CEO Vivian Schiller’s resignation — Hopkins said, “I don’t think the question you posed about race fits here.”

WGBH has not issued a statement or apology about the tattoo.

“We’re happy to explain to anyone who asks,” Hopkins said.

Watch a promo for “The Wounded Platoon,” featuring David Nash. Embedded below via YouTube.

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
 
 
 
 
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