MADISON, Wisconsin – A retired farmer who claims he was a Nazi SS officer has agreed not to open a memorial he built to Hitler, local officials say.
Ted Junker, 87, had planned a grand opening for his shrine June 25 on his farm in southeastern Wisconsin. Word of the opening generated a crush of publicity.
But Walworth County officials met with Junker on Thursday morning and persuaded him to keep the shrine closed, said Mike Cotter, county deputy corporation counsel. No one answered the phone at Junker's farm when The Associated Press called Thursday.
Cotter said county officials used bureaucratic issues to discourage the farmer, saying officials classified it as an assembly hall or museum and that Junker would need permits.
He also warned Junker his farm could not accommodate the hundreds of visitors that could show up because of media coverage, and that the shrine would likely provoke retaliation.
"He understood that this had blossomed into something he was never expecting," Cotter said. "When he saw us today, he made the comment again about how famous he'd become. You could hear the phone ringing constantly. Constantly."
Sheriff David Graves said deputies will still step up patrols in the area on June 25 to stop any trespassers.
Cotter said Junker built the shrine into the side of a hill on his property. He has painted tributes to Hitler on the walls, Cotter said, along with the text of the United States Constitution's First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. The top of the building features a granite wall honoring Germans killed in World War II.
Junker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he volunteered to join the German Waffen-SS, Hitler's feared special police, in 1940 and served in Russia. He came to the U.S. in 1955.
Junker told the paper he set up the shrine to correct what he called inaccuracies about World War II and Hitler's role in it. He also told the newspaper he does not believe Hitler was to blame for the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were killed.