Swastika defaces "Love trumps hate" lawn sign; Lee couple disgusted by universal sign of hate


LEE — Reinout van Wagtendonk retrieved his newspaper Sunday morning only to find the "universal sign of hate" on his front lawn.

During the night, someone drew two swastikas — one on each side — of the "Love trumps hate" lawn sign he and his wife Kristine Huffman staked into the ground 10 days ago.

The homeowners on Devon Road for the past 15 years — who aren't Jewish — were sickened by the vandalism.

"Disgust," Huffman said was her initial reaction. "We thought this was about love, not hate."

"It made my heart pound. It's a creepy, nasty sign," said van Wagtendonk. "After all, isn't it the universal sign of hate?"

An ancient religious symbol, the symbol of a bent cross came to represent Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany's atrocities against mankind leading up to and during World War II.

The couple reported the incident to the Lee Police Department, but the Lee residents doubt the culprit will be caught.

At the request of the investigating officer, the sign was removed. Van Wagtendonk had hoped to leave it up to show the insensitivity and stupidity of the vandal.

"I sort of wanted all the neighbors to see it," he said.

"I think I would have told you to take the sign down," Huffman said to her husband. "I don't want negative energy in our yard,"

Huffman and van Wagtendonk spoke to The Eagle from their kitchen Sunday afternoon saying neither has directly experienced such a hateful gesture since moving to the Berkshires more than 30 years ago.

Huffman hails from Michigan, while van Wagtendonk, a native of the Netherlands, grew up post World War II where Nazi Germany's atrocities were fresh in many Europeans' minds.

The pair of 58-year-olds lived in South Berkshire before marrying and moving to Lee. Huffman worked at Canyon ranch of the Berkshires before becoming a private consultant in the hospitality industry.

Van Wagtendonk is a correspondent for BNR Nieuwsradio of the Netherlands who recently became a U.S. citizen and looks forward to voting in his first U.S. presidential election in November.

While trump is not capitalized, the couple say the message of "Love trumps hate" is clear — they don't support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

"I'm a middle-aged white guy, have no fear and felt solidarity toward immigrants," said van Wagtendonk.

Trump has taken a hard line on undocumented immigrants vowing to deport them all, if elected, and build a wall between U.S. and Mexico to prevent the flow of new undocumented immigrants across the southwest American border.

Good friend and Lee Selectman Thomas Wickham was appalled when he heard of the defaced lawn sign.

"It's vandalism that's irresponsible socialism; we need to respect both sides of the election," he said in a phone interview. "Think we can rise above this and in no way does [the swastika] reflect what the town is all about."

Huffman and van Wagtendonk are undaunted by the incident and you can expect they will soon show their support for the Democratic presidential hopeful.

"Now this means will put a Hillary [Clinton] sign out in the front yard," van Wagtendonk said.

"Maybe we'll put a camera on it with a timer," quipped Huffman.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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