Amana wants explanation for being called home of hate group

Amana community leaders say their colonies are known for incredible food and family festivals, not hate

AMANA, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) - The Amana Colonies were founded on principles of peace and religious pacifism, but right now, more than a few members of the community are fighting mad. The area known for family fun, incredible restaurants and year-round festivals is now marked by a swastika on a map of designated hate groups published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director David Rettig says the good name of the colonies is being smeared with lies, “ We were totally shocked by this, to be associated with a Neo-Nazi group in Amana is crazy. " Rettig says as soon as it was drawn to his attention, he reached out to the SPLC and was assured someone would get back to him. So far, no one has. CBS2/FOX28 also left messages for the civil rights group, but has yet to receive a response.

At the Amana Museum, Jon Childers points to a wall of honor with the names of 180 Amana veterans who left home to fight the Nazis and Hitler. He says their own German heritage in this communal settlement is about defying hate. Childers says their ancestors were persecuted and came to the United States to find freedom, “ It’s a religion of peace, we’re pacifists and so hate and pacifism really aren’t compatible, so I guess when I heard this it angered me. If we’re being falsely accused we need to say, wait a second, this isn’t who we are.”

Rettig says he even called the county sheriff to see if there had ever been any reports of hate groups being active and was told no. He says the sheriff then contacted authorities in Des Moines to see if anything ever showed up on their radar and again the response was no. He says he wants an explanation, because if this is a case of someone from somewhere holding an informal dinner meeting in the Amanas, it's unfair for anyone to suggest the community is a hotbed of hate, “ This is a community that is extremely open and welcoming to all different cultures and diversities. We say in Amana, ‘Gametlikeit,’ it’s a German word of feeling comfortable and feeling accepted and wanted and that’s what we’re all about. To see this and to hear these reports, if it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable. “

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