The founder of Life-Savers Ministries said his intention was “entirely honorable” in putting up a billboard by Village Mall in Auburn that had a quote from Adolf Hitler.
The billboard, which had a multi-racial photo of five smiling children on one side, had Hitler’s quote “He Alone, Who Owns The Youth, Gains The Future,” and it was attributed to Hitler in red letters.
Below Hitler’s quote is a verse from Proverbs, “Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go, Even When He Is Old He Will Not Depart From It.” There was no other identifier on the billboard.
The billboard went up on May 30, it was covered by billboard company Lamar Advertising on June 3 at the ministry’s request after controversy erupted over the weekend.
James Anderegg told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that the ministry “never intended to cause confusion… Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said ‘Children are our most valuable resource’.”
Anderegg told Southern Jewish Life that he is “a quote fanatic” and “had an enormous amount of quotes to pull from.” The ministry’s website has such quotes — though not the Hitler one — on each page.
He said that “through prayer and counsel it was decided that the Hitler quote would be used” on the billboard.
He explained that “In all of the quotes I have collected there were many who were not ‘good’ in the eyes of many and of various religions and whom I certainly do not agree with; although there is truth as is the case with this quote.”
His intent was “was to bring attention to the plight of our children and youth and it indeed did get attention. I could have used quotes from Mother Teresa and would have caused the same amount of curiosity I am sure.”
The ministry was founded in October 1996 in Opelika’s Hardaway housing projects. Today the ministry runs six buses to a facility where hundreds of youth are brought from “20 different rough and tough locations throughout Opelika and Auburn.” Anderegg said “this is where I came from as a child.”
His passion is “reaching children and youth for Christ, sharing of His great love for them and encouraging them of the greatness that our Lord has placed in each of them.”
Phyllis Weinstein, who chairs the Alabama Holocaust Commission and the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, wondered how it could be possible for a ministry to use a quote from Hitler. The incident “alerts us to the fact that there is much ignorance about World War II, the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler,” she said. “We have to be more diligent in our Holocaust education training.”
Anderegg noted one of his “most favorite quotes” is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Bonhoeffer was an anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor who was executed in a Nazi concentration camp.