MINNEAPOLIS - The phones at Gasthof zur Gemutkichkeit in northeast Minneapolis are ringing constantly. But this week, those calls included dozens of the people who are upset after learning a local group held a Nazi-themed party at the restaurant.
The restaurant's owner, Mario Pierzchalski, said a former employee snapped photos on Jan. 20 showing the Nazi flags in the dining area and men wearing German SS uniforms. For so many, the symbols represent years of hatred. Pierzchalski said the threatening calls started when the photos were published in City Pages.
"You have no idea what the repercussions are going to be. I have lots of Jewish friends," one female caller left on his voicemail.
Another upset caller used colorful language and called the owner "scum of the earth."
Pierzchalski defends the group who has been hosting its party for the last six years at his establishment. He says members of the World War II re-enactment group represented other nationalities, including Italians, Britains and Americans, but he said that they weren't photographed.
"They are like actors ... like Hollywood," Pierzchalski said. "They are like movies. They are using props. They were using flags, uniforms hats and boots, you know. They are not a Nazi white supremacist."
But Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, does not see it that way.
"Why anyone would want to emulate or celebrate the German army or the second World War is sort of a mystery. Look how far Germany has come since. That is worth celebrating," he said. "Glorification and/or celebration of Nazi Germany and its military would appear to be incongruous with the nature of a family restaurant and its surrounding neighborhood."
Pierzchalski, who moved his family to Minnesota in 1980 from Poland, is still on the fence about allowing the group to reserve the space in the future.
He admits, the phone calls are "scary."
"They want to burn my building down," he said.