Holland Township, NJ – In a living room decorated with war books, German combat knives and swastikas, a 2-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, played with a plastic dinner set.
The boy, asked his name, put down a tiny plate and ran behind his father’s leg. He flashed a shy smile but wouldn’t answer. Heath Campbell, 35, the boy’s father, encouraged him.
“Say Adolf,” said Campbell, a Holocaust denier who has three children named for Nazism.
Again, the boy wouldn’t answer. It wasn’t the first time the name caused hesitation.
Adolf Hitler Campbell — it’s indeed the name on his birth certificate — turns 3 today, and the Campbell family believes the boy has been mistreated. A local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with “Adolf Hitler” on it.
The ShopRite in Greenwich Township has also refused to make a cake bearing the name of Campbell’s daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns 2 in February.
Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler, turns 1 in April.
“ShopRite can’t even make a cake for a 3-year-old,” said Deborah Campbell, 25, who is Heath’s wife of three years and the mother of the children. “That’s sad.”
A director for the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia applauded the supermarket’s decision. An Allentown psychologist said the names would cause problems for the children later in life.
A cake case
Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman, said the grocer tries to meet customer requests but rejects those deemed inappropriate. “We believe the request to inscribe a birthday wish to Adolf Hitler is inappropriate,” she said.
The grocer offered to make a cake with enough room for the Campbells to write their own inscription. But the Campbells refused, saying they would have a cake made at the Wal-Mart in Lower Nazareth Township. The Campbells say Wal-Mart made cakes for Adolf’s first two birthdays.
A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said the store won’t put anything illegal or profane on a cake but thinks it’s important to respect the views of customers and employees.
“Our No. 1 priority in decorating cakes is to serve the customer to the best of our ability,” Anna Taylor, the spokeswoman, said from Bentonville, Ark.
If the Campbells have a legal case over the refusal, it would be that the family was denied service because of race, ethnicity or religion, said Shannon Powers, of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, a state agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws.
The Campbells, she said, would have to prove ShopRite didn’t make a reasonable attempt to provide service it provides others. She said the offer to make a cake with room for an inscription would probably count as a reasonable attempt.
“It sounds like they (the supermarket) don’t want to offend other patrons or do something offensive to their own sensibilities. If that’s the motivation, that’s totally different from discrimination,” Powers said.
‘They’re just names’
The Campbells have swastikas in each room of their home, the rented half of a one-story duplex just outside Milford, a borough in Hunterdon County. They say they aren’t racists but believe races shouldn’t mix.
The Campbells said they wanted their children to have unique names and didn’t expect the names to cause problems. Despite the cake refusal, the Campbells said they don’t expect the names to cause problems later, such as when the children start school.
“I just figured that they’re just names,” Deborah Campbell said. “They’re just kids. They’re not going to hurt anybody.”
Heath Campbell said some people like the names but others are shocked to hear them. “They say, ‘He (Hitler) killed all those people.’ I say, ‘You’re living in the wrong decade. That Hitler’s gone,'” he said.
“They’re just names, you know,” he said. “Yeah, they (Nazis) were bad people back then. But my kids are little. They’re not going to grow up like that.”
“Other kids get their cake. I get a hard time,” he said. “It’s not fair to my children.
“How can a name be offensive?” he asked.
‘Why not call the kid Peace?’
Robert M. Gordon, a clinical psychologist in Allentown, said the names would hurt the children.
“Certainly society is going to be hostile towards those kids, especially when they go to school,” Gordon said.
More than that, he said, the children would be harmed by their parents’ views.
“By the time they get to school, they will already have been damaged,” Gordon said. “Any parent that would impose such horrific names on their children is mentally ill, and they would be affecting their children from the day they were born. Only a crazy person would do that.”
The problems the children might encounter in school, he said, “would be icing on the cake.”
Barry Morrison, a director at the Philadelphia office of the Anti-Defamation League, which works to stop anti-Semitism and bigotry, said the organization had never heard of children named for Hitler, Himmler or Aryan nations.
He found the names offensive and commended ShopRite’s decision.
The Campbells, Morrison said, “might as well put a sign around their (the children’s) neck that says bigot, racist, hatemonger. What’s the difference? Why not call the kid Peace or Tranquility or Hope or Acceptance?
“It’s doing them (the children) a tremendous disservice, and it’s cruel that parents would place these names on children,” he said. “It’s a mark upon them. It sets them apart for ridicule, derision, attacks.
“The children at this age might not have an understanding of these names. But when they grow up, hopefully, they would want to distance themselves from them,” he said. “If they come to identify with the ideology of Hitler, Himmler and the Aryan nations, their parents are launching them on a life of hatred.”
Swastikas and choices
The Campbell home is kept neat aside from scattered toys and other evidence three children live there. It’s small, but it’s what the Campbells can afford.
Disabilities, the couple says, have left both out of work: Heath Campbell can’t landscape or pump gas because he has emphysema, and Deborah can’t waitress because she has a bad back. They live on Social Security payments.
In the foyer, Heath Campbell, who said he has German ancestry and a relative who fought for the SS, took off boots he said were worn by a Nazi solider named Daniel.
He laid them next to a skull with a swastika on its forehead, the first of dozens of swastikas seen by the Campbells’ rare guests.
There are swastikas on walls, on jackets, on the freezer and on a pillow. The family car had swastikas, Heath Campbell said, until New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families told him they could endanger the children.
The swastikas, Heath Campbell said, are symbols of peace and balance. He considers them art.
“It doesn’t mean hatred to me,” he said. Deborah Campbell said a swastika “doesn’t really have a meaning. It’s just a symbol.”
Heath Campbell said he doesn’t want to force his views on his children, in part because he had views forced on him. He said he also teaches them nonviolence.
Abusive guardians, Heath Campbell said, used Bible verses to teach him to distrust blacks. If he questioned the guardians, he said, he was hit. He acknowledged he couldn’t challenge the guardians’ views.
He said Adolf Hitler, Aryan Nation and Hinler would be able to make their own decisions about race.