Freshly-cropped lawns and clean summertime air marinate in Lauderdale. With its many residents who've lived there for decades and a pride that's obvious in crisp front yards and well-watered flower pots, the neighborhood that sits snug between the University of Minnesota golf course and Highway 280 epitomizes residential bliss.
But this grace recently got the middle finger.
Neighbors noticed a Nazi flag flying in the backyard of Robert Walter's Pleasant Street home last week. The discovery caused neighbor Ben Holsen, the host of GO96.3's morning radio show, to do a double-take.
Sure enough, atop the flag pole behind Walter's abode fluttered the red, black and white German War Ensign flag of the Third Reich, which was used by Nazi forces until the end of World War II in 1945.
"The most important things for me are community and neighborhood," Holsen says. "That flag is the most hateful flag a person could put up. He's got Jewish neighbors who told me they were terrified because of that flag.
"I can't have that in my neighborhood. It's not what this neighborhood is about. It's not what Minnesota is about. My grandfathers fought in World War II so this wouldn't be a thing. The least I could do was make a couple of phone calls."
Holsen did better than that. After Lauderdale officials told him flying the flag wasn't illegal, Holsen took to Facebook, writing, "So… my neighbor began flying his Nazi flag this week. The city hall administration isn’t willing to do anything. My Jewish neighbors are afraid. I’m disgusted. Any ideas how to make this stop?”
Holsen's Facebook post sired a movement. He was inundated with messages asking for the perp's address. WCCO-TV caught wind of the story, dispatching a reporter, whose interview request received a stone cold response from Walter. He had no comment.
Holsen returned from work on Friday a little bit before lunchtime. His homecoming yielded a welcome surprise. Walter's Nazi flag no longer flew. The flagpole was gone too. Holsen suspects stealth Nazi non-sympathizers may have had something to do with it.
But that's not the case, according to Walter. In order to remove the flag, he tells City Pages, the entire flag pole had to come down.
"I'm not no Neo-Nazi," says Walter, who styles himself a history buff. "I just like the design of the flag, the colors, the pattern. I took it all down because of the [WCCO-TV] story. I didn't want anymore headaches."
Asked if the Swastika flag would adorn in his backyard in the future, Walter said, "Maybe. But at this point, I don't know."