Wisconsin Monument to Hitler Draws Neo-Nazis, and Trouble

Eighty-seven-year-old Theodor Junker says he doesn't want any trouble. The retired farmer and ex-Waffen SS soldier just wants to tend quietly to his Hitler memorial, which lies off a single-lane gravel path deep in the woods of southern Wisconsin.

But trouble is what he got in August, when five carloads of neo-Nazis pulled onto his property to pay respects to Junker and his shrine. Junker, who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1955, does not yet have a zoning permit to host "large events" as defined by the county and was summarily fined $2,000 for allowing about 25 members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) to gather at his memorial. According to the court judgment, the money will be returned if Junker does not violate zoning regulations within the next year.

Junker claims that he did not invite the NSM members, who rallied in Madison the next day. "A guy called me and said he wants to show [the memorial] to two or three people from Iowa," he told a local newspaper. "All of a sudden, they came with 20 people."

Junker has invested three years and $200,000 of his own money in the memorial, which includes a large rendering of the First Amendment, and has promoted it by giving an extensive tour and interview to a reporter for a small local newspaper. The centerpiece is a granite pedestal holding two portraits of Hitler.

The still heavily accented Junker has been a repeat guest on the official NSM radio program "Nazi America," on which his shrine is referred to as "America's Feldherrnhalle," a reference to the "Hall of Commanders" that honors German military leaders in Bavaria. During one appearance on the show, Junker discussed his proud service in Nazi uniform during World War II and why Hitler should be remembered fondly by the world.

"This memorial should live forever," said Junker, calling it "his life's dream."