A billboard bearing a strange message went up last week at Village Mall in Auburn, Ala. The billboard, rented by Life Savers Ministries, based in Opelika, Ala., featured a stock image of happy children and the quote “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future”—attributed, right there on the massive sign, to Adolf Hitler, the Ledger-Enquirer reports. The church group had the sign removed several days later.
The billboard went up Friday and will be taken down Tuesday, per LSM’s request.
“We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion. … Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said, ‘Children are our most valuable resource,’” founder James Anderegg told the Ledger-Enquirer. “We are a children’s organization and had honorable intentions and nothing less.”
According to Reuters, the billboard also featured a quotation from the Book of Proverbs, in the Hebrew Bible: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Talk about mixed messaging. The Hitler quote, the Ledger-Enquirer points out, is associated with the Nazi youth programs, making it an even more bizarre choice for the organization, which works with under-privileged children.
The billboard was rented from Lamar Advertising, which presumably reviews ad proposals before having them made into gigantic signs. Which means several people along the way had to have seen an ad with a Hitler quote on it and not stopped to scratch their heads or, I don’t know, not put it up?
Update: This isn’t the first controversial billboard Lamar Advertising has approved in Alabama. According to AL.com, Lamar posted, then removed, a billboard reading “SECEDE” in capital letters, which was rented by the League of the South, an organization flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.