Distributor of 'Nazi' Flier Urged to Resign Post
Distributor of 'Nazi' flier urged to resign county posts
by Eric Fingerhut
Local Jewish organizations are calling on a Bethesda man who distributed a flier depicting three members of the Maryland General Assembly as Nazis to resign from two Montgomery County public positions.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan has initiated proceedings to remove him from one of those posts, but Augustus Alzona says he has no intention of leaving either position.
Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington and American Jewish Committee Washington chapter leaders say that Alzona is not fit to continue as a member of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee or of the Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence due to his involvement with the distribution of the controversial flier last week at House and Senate hearings in Annapolis.
The flier, which states that "Montgomery County Democrats have a FINAL Solution for ALL of Maryland's Gun Owners," depicts State Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Dist. 16) and Christopher Van Hollen (D-Dist.18) and Del. Mark Shriver (D-Dist. 15) in Nazi uniforms, smiling, with the words "for the CHILDREN" on their hats. A concentration camp prisoner poses in the background, with a C on his chest -- apparently standing for "communist."
The three are sponsors of a bill that would require the licensing of gun owners in Maryland, similar to the way the state licenses drivers.
In a letter on Tuesday, Duncan informed Alzona that proceedings had been initiated to remove him from the Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence.
The county describes the committee as "a citizen's advisory group created to work with the [county's Human Relations] Commission to educate the residents of Montgomery County about hate/violence, to recommend policies, programs, legislation or other initiatives needed to decrease and eliminate hate/violence in the county, and to promote respect for social and cultural diversity."
"In my view, Mr. Alzona's actions of last week are highly offensive, do not keep with this spirit of inclusiveness and do a disservice to the fine work of the Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence," said Duncan, who also gave Alzona the opportunity to resign his position voluntarily.
The county executive, with council approval, may remove a member of the committee for just cause, but that member must receive the opportunity to respond to the allegations, either before the council or in writing.
Alzona, the treasurer of the 15-member body, was appointed to the committee as a business community representative in 1998 and reappointed to a three-year term in 2000.
"It smacks of partisanship," said Alzona of the Duncan move. "I'd like my day in court."
Ron Halber, JCCouncil executive director, praised Duncan's action, but said he hoped that Alzona would resign before being officially removed.
"When one assumes public leadership, that includes standards of tolerance and inclusiveness," Halber said. "If he wants to show some leadership, he could do so by resigning," and "spare the taxpayers the waste of money and valuable time."
Two top Republican officeholders in Montgomery County, Rep. Connie Morella and County Council member Howard Denis, have called on Alzona to resign from his elected post on the county Republican committee. The county Republican Party has followed suit.
"Trivializing the Holocaust is over the line," said Denis. "The Holocaust was so awful, it's common decency not to drag it into political debate."
Alzona says he has no plans to resign from the committee, and will probably run for re-election.
"I represent a certain constituency," Alzona said, noting that he is the only Asian/Pacific-American member of the Republican committee in the state and has strong support in the conservative wing of Maryland's Republican Party.
Denis said that he intends to campaign actively against Alzona in the election for committee spots, which will take place on primary Election Day in September.
David Bernstein, director of the American Jewish Committee's Washington area office, said Alzona should resign from his public posts and praised Morella and Denis.
"We have to applaud the political leadership and party leadership for their forceful condemnations of this," he said. "Using Nazi imagery is inappropriate in a political campaign."
Brittanie Zelkind Werbel of the Anti-Defamation League's Washington regional office, said her organization is "glad to hear that [political leaders] are taking action."
"I think it's definitely a reason for concern that someone who is distributing hate literature offensive to anyone who survived the Holocaust ... is a member of a government-sanctioned group working against hate," she said.
Alzona, who lost to Frosh in a state Senate race in 1998, is a member of the Maryland chapter of the Tyranny Response Team, a group that has been active in Montgomery County opposing any kind of gun control measures.
The group's Web site, which had a copy of the controversial flier posted on Monday but has since taken it down, says the group is "the embodiment of mans' [sic] desire for freedom."
Zelkind Werbel said the TRT has in the past used Nazi imagery to support its pro-gun argument, and also has links to militia groups throughout the country.
Alzona said that the flier was "Mel Brooks-like ... political ridicule of those three lawmakers for having .. a Nazi-like mentality of favoring registration, fingerprinting, photographing, numbering and licensing of all Maryland's gun owners."
He also said is only guilty of doing his job as a Republican committee member by attacking Democrats.
He added that the flier is being used to "lynch me through the media because I am a known gun rights activist in the party."
Steve Rosenthal, a friend of Alzona's who is "active in the firearms civil rights community" and lives in Arlington, said he is Jewish and was "not offended" by the use of Nazi imagery, although he can "understand why [Frosh, Van Hollen and Shriver] are upset being compared to Nazis."
He notes that if citizens had been able to keep their guns in Nazi Germany, "things wouldn't have turned out any worse."
All three elected officials depicted in the flier said it disgusted them.
"It's pretty awful, hateful and inappropriate," said Frosh. "I have a hard time thinking anyone would think this is funny."
"It is American politics at its worst," said Van Hollen. "It trivializes the evil of the Nazi regime."
"It is outrageous ... and does not belong in a public forum," said Shriver, noting that one can have strong disagreements on policy without resorting to portraying opponents as Nazis.
This story was published on Thu, Mar 21, 2002.