Why would someone fly a Nazi flag to protest Obama?

A physician has hoisted a Nazi naval war ensign outside of his home, in what he says is a protest against 'Führer' Obama. He is not the first.

Sherene Silverberg
A man flew a Nazi naval flag outside his Norfolk, Va., home, in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, in what he reportedly described as a protest against president Obama.

This morning I woke to find myself tagged in a Facebook post by a friend in my town whose neighbor had chosen to fly a Nazi flag.

Sherene Sillverberg of Norfolk, Va., wrote on Facebook that radiologist William Wheeler hoisted the flag near the front door of his home in their predominantly Jewish neighborhood on Thursday night in protest of "Führer Obama." 

“We asked how many people are going to know a swastika stands for protesting Obama," says Ms. Silverberg in a phone interview. His response, she says, was that "everyone’s an Obama supporter."

I was apparently named at the end of the post to draw my journalistic attention to the story, not because I was in any way involved.

Accompanying Silverberg's post was a picture of a crisp red flag with black and white lines and a large black swastika and smaller iron cross. It is not the typical Nazi flag, a red field with an angular, spidery, black swastika. This was the war ensign that the Nazi Navy – the Kriegsmarine – flew from 1938 until the end of the war.

Norfolk is a Navy town where war ships and submarines are stationed and repaired, so this is an interesting and perhaps significant choice on the part of the man who chose to fly it.

Apparently, flying some version of a Nazi flag to protest Obama isn't new. 

Back in 2011, the Idaho State Journal reported that Postal Worker Gene Martin, a retired veteran, told the media he was displaying the flag as a sign of his “disgust with President Obama’s policies.” 

Mr. Martin said he feels the policies of the U.S. government are heading toward fascism. “[President Barack] Obama is heading us down the tube just like Adolf Hitler did,” Martin told the Journal. “I just really think this country is going downhill thanks to our brilliant leaders back in Washington."

In Stratford, Conn., in June 2013, a man flew Nazi flags in protest of President Obama’s policies, according to news reports there.

In March 2014 Warner Robins, Ga., resident Gil Switzer flew a Nazi flag “in his back yard in protest of the dictator he believes President Barack Obama has become,” according to media reports.

In each of these cases, those who flew the swastika said that they did so not to advance Nazi ideology, but to call attention to policies that they perceive as fascist.

"I don’t think that using the Nazi flag to protest Obama is really a trend," said Mark Potok, a Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a phone interview. "The bottom  line is the ludicrousness of someone who compares the ideology of President Obama with the policies of Nazi Germany which resulted in the deaths of over 70 million people. It’s just ludicrous.”

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