StoneMor Inc., one of the nation’s largest cemetery owners, mistakenly issued a 2020 calendar with a quote from Germany’s Nazi commander Heinrich Himmler, the architect of Adolf Hitler’s “final solution.”
StoneMor printed about 38,000 of the calendars late last year and sent them to its funeral homes as part of an annual marketing campaign for customers. It blamed an outside vendor for choosing an infamous quote attributed to Himmler: “My honor is my loyalty.”
The theme for the entire calendar was “honor.” But the phrase — featured on the page for November — was the motto of Nazi Germany’s feared SS, and it referenced loyalty to Hitler. Since World War II, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists around the world have used this phrase as a hate slogan, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
StoneMor, based in Trevose, operates thousands of acres of burial grounds across the United States, nearly 90 funeral homes, and 320 cemeteries, including 13 for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a large Jewish cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J.
Its finances have been rocky in recent years, though spokesman Keith Trost said that has improved.
Trost said StoneMor thinks the mistake by the vendor was unintentional, made out of ignorance, and not hate.
“This shows the danger of just taking things off the computer and not checking sources,” said Marcia Sachs Littell, executive director of the Philadelphia Center on the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights. “You have to ask, who speaks and what does he stand for before you quote someone.”
November is packed with dates of significance to the Jewish people. For instance, Nov. 9, 1938 was the date of Kristallnacht when the Nazis ransacked thousands of Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues.
Some historians believe the passing of the decades explains partly why the Holocaust hasn’t t registered with some younger people.
“They have to understand when they hear the name Himmler what that means," Littell said. “Many people don’t know if Hitler was good or bad. Especially If they’re really young.”
An anonymous caller alerted The Inquirer to the calendar this week. Joe Redling, StoneMor’s chief executive, issued a statement Wednesday following the Inquirer’s request for comment. It said the firm had no toleration for anti-Semitism.
“StoneMor’s marketing team “caught this issue after the calendar was sent to print but prior to mass distribution to our customers,” Redling said. “We successfully recalled and destroyed most of the calendars."
He said the firm had fired the vendor, fired its own employees who had failed to notice the phrase, and imposed policies to prevent the mistake from being repeated.
Also, StoneMor alerted the Anti-Defamation League and local Jewish leaders “who praised the speed and extent of our efforts to rectify this unfortunate and grave error. StoneMor stands very firmly with and is honored to serve the Jewish community.”
Survey shows lack of knowledge
The local Philadelphia office of the ADL said it had been contacted by StoneMor around the new year 2020 after the company discovered the quote.
“They realized it pretty quickly, and tried to pull the calendars back. We talked to them at the time," and they tried to do that work internally, said Shira Goodman, regional director of ADL in Philadelphia. “It was a mistake, and they took it seriously. But that ignorance can have a real-world impact.”
A recent survey of all 50 states found many Americans didn’t know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Moreover, 56% of U.S. millennials and Gen Z’ers were unable to identify the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
In New York, the state-by-state analysis found, nearly 20% of millennials and Gen Z’s believe that Jewish people caused the Holocaust, due in part to Holocaust-deniers on social media.
The results come amid a rise in anti-Semitic acts around the U.S. in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League said in May that it had recorded an all-time high of anti-Semitic acts in 2019 since tracking began more than 40 years ago.