All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.

Steve Dibert, MFI-Miami

Sign above the the largest industrial ruin in the world
Sign above the the largest industrial ruin in the world

An ominous sign appeared at the abandoned Packard plant in Detroit during the past week with the chilling words, “Arbeit Macht Frei”.  The phrase translates to “Work Will Make You Free,”.  It was the same message that the Germans placed above the gates of Auschwitz as they ushered their victims through to meet an almost certain death.

The plant’s owner Dominic Cristini, who is in a legal dispute with the city over the plant’s ownership was unaware the sign until a reporter from the Detroit Free Press contacted his attorney, John Bologna, who said, “This is a disgusting act,”

It appears whoever is responsible for putting it up wanted it stay up as long as possible.  As Steve Neavling at the Motor City Muckraker points out,

“Whoever is behind the signs took care to imitate the letter stylings of the ones at Auschwitz, where 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered.  A quick glimpse from inside the Packard showed that each letter is fashioned on a durable piece of plastic that is strongly secured to the overpass with about 80 sturdy ties.”


The Packard Plant opened in 1903 and churned out luxury automobiles until the plant closed in 1956.  It was replaced by smaller manufacturing businesses for the next 25 years but as more automobile suppliers relocated outside the City of Detroit, the Packard Plant became a hot spot for for artists, photographers, graffiti artists, tourists, urban spelunkers and urban adventurers from the around the globe all interested in Rust Belt Chic.  As cool as the 40 acre Packard plant may appear, it has seen it’s share of arsonists, scrappers, vandals and death.

The Packard plant is a reminder to the world of Detroit’s glory days as the “Arsenal of Democracy” and the bitter realities of the present.  Although Jewish groups may find offense to the sign, they shouldn’t.   As ugly as the holocaust of the 20th century was, we must not forget and we need to ensure it never happens again.  We also need to remember, genocide is genocide albeit ethnic genocide or economic genocide, it’s still the same thing.


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