Jewish Fresno Priest in Shock from Swastika and Hitler Photo on Pillow
A Jewish Holocaust survivor-descendant priest was shocked to find National Socialist symbols and Adolf Hitler’s face on a throw pillow he ordered from Walmart.
When the Very Rev. Ryan Newman bought the pillow on walmart.com in November, he could see it featured large images of a bicycle and the Eiffel Tower, and the word “Paris.” What he didn’t see were NS party seals with swastikas, along with Hitler’s face on postage stamps with the German word “Reich” – referring to the Third Reich, the National Socialist state from 1933 to 1945 – on the top near the pillow’s seams. The images cover several inches on each side.
Newman said he was “dumbfounded, and then angry and upset”: “To me this is a symbol of hate,” he said. “This is a symbol of evil.”
He said his work is about “preaching love and tolerance and reconciliation” as the new dean of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in central Fresno.
Newman and his wife, Erin, a physician at Valley Children’s Hospital, moved to Clovis in the fall. Their family heritage has some Jewish roots, including direct descendants who are “Holocaust survivors”.
He called and emailed Walmart about the pillow but said he couldn’t get anyone to take his complaint seriously. Part of his email: “I’m outraged and feel very violated. For two months, this pillow has been in our house. My family, friends and colleagues have sat next to this pillow. I pray none of them noticed the pillow and didn’t say anything. The symbols portrayed on the pillows are offensive and wrong.”
Newman asked for an explanation from the company and that the item – described online as a retro Paris bicycle throw pillow – be removed from its website immediately.
Later that afternoon, Newman received what he called a generic email response from a customer service representative.
Part of that response: “Since your item is from a marketplace seller Dreamstrue LLC, as much as I would like to process a solution, we don’t have access in any marketplace seller items. Don’t worry, the best and the only thing we can do is to escalate this to the resolution team of the market place seller. I hope you understand. Rest assured this will be resolved by the Marketplace seller.”
The email assured Newman that he would receive an email or phone call within one business day. Shortly before that one-day window ended, the only response Newman said he received was another generic email, asking if his problem had been resolved.
Requests for comment from Dreamstrue LLC were not returned. The company is headquartered in Beaver Creek, Colorado, according to the Better Business Bureau.
A Walmart spokeswoman provided the following statement: “This pillow was listed by a third-party seller on our online marketplace and is in violation of our policy. We regularly scan our marketplace for these types of items, but, unfortunately, the offensive image wasn’t visible on the pillow’s photo and we were not aware of it until the customer reached out. We removed the item immediately and are reviewing the seller’s assortment.”
The item remained on walmart.com for approximately a day after Newman first made his complaint. The German word “Reich” was visible on the photo of the pillow for sale online.
Newman said he thinks the National Socialsit symbols were inserted on the pillow by mistake. He noted the pillow also features handwritten information about London and the English Parliament, suggesting the creator didn’t have a good understanding of Paris.
Walmart said it sells 75 million items on walmart.com, including thousands from third-party sellers, and that these items are scanned “both manually and using automated tools.” No more details were provided about inspection protocol, what checks the pillow Newman purchased may have undergone, or how long the pillow had been for sale on walmart.com.
Newman hopes his experience gets the company to improve its product vetting process.
As for the pillow, he’s keeping it. The priest plans to use it to tell a story about the need to “stand for love, acceptance and peace.”
“Not to go preacher on you,” Newman said, “but here’s this beautiful place we love, Paris, but the example is, even in this world that we love, there is still darkness and hatred, and symbols of darkness and hatred. And we need to teach the next generation about these symbols and what they stand for, and we need to rid our world of these symbols.”