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Jewish group says La Crescenta park sign isn't welcome, citing Nazi rallies held there in 1930s

Claiming connections to Nazi atrocities, a Southland Jewish organization seeks the removal of a welcome sign at Crescenta Valley Park that pays tribute to a German World War I hero.

Los Angeles county officials will hold a meeting on April 7 at the Sparr Heights Community Center to discuss whether to take down the sign that commemorates the part of the park named for Paul Von Hindenburg, who served as Germany's president from the late 1920s to early 1930s.

The message on the sign reads "willkommen zum," which means welcome to, followed by "Hindenburg Park."

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In the 1920s, the grounds were acquired by the German American League and was a gathering place for local Germans. It also served as the site of the first Oktoberfest celebration in Southern California.

Hindenburg Park lies within Crescenta Valley Park, which was purchased by the county in 1958. The county dedicated a section of the park as Hindenburg Park in 1992.

The sign was paid for the Tri-Centennial Foundation, a German heritage organization, and it was erected last month.

The sign's purpose is to honor history and how the open space was a gathering spot for the local German population, said Hans Eberhard, the foundation's chairman.

"We're trying to preserve the historic integrity of the site … I can't see any reason why there's something wrong with [the sign]," he said in a phone interview. "This is a welcome to Hindenburg Park. There's nothing wrong with that. It's an indication this is a historic site."

A local resident notified the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys of the sign, and the organization took immediate issue with it.

Jason Moss, the Jewish federation's executive director, is demanding the county take it down.

The sign does not only lead people to believe Crescenta Valley Park is called Hindenburg Park, the federation argues, but it jogs memories of when the park was the site of Nazi rallies.

While president, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany in 1933, the year before Hindenburg's death. The move paved the way for Hitler's rise to power and eventually the Holocaust and the deaths of more than 6 million Jews, Moss said.

"Those issues are brought up when you see the word 'Hindenburg,'" he said in a phone interview. "There's really no way to separate it."

However, Eberhard said Hindenburg was elderly and senile when he appointed Hitler, and some historians argue he was pressured to do it.

Those who hoisted flags bearing swastikas during World War II at Crescenta Valley Park were doing so because it was the German flag at the time, not because they were Nazis, Eberhard added.

The county approved installation of the sign after the Tri-Centennial Foundation gained support from the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said Kaye Michelson, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Parks and Recreation.

At next week's hearing, three members from the county's human relations commission will gather feedback from community members.

The feedback will then be presented to the full commission, which will decide whether to remove the sign.

The hearing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on April 7 in the Verdugo Room at the Sparr Heights Community Center, 1613 Glencoe Way.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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