Like other families, Bryant Goldbach posted a photo on social media showing him and his young son dressed in their Halloween costumes.
But unlike others, the Kentucky father was pictured donning a Nazi soldier costume Thursday night at the “Trail of Treats” Halloween festival in Owensboro, Ky., about 115 miles southwest of Louisville.
He dressed his 5-year-old son as Adolf Hitler.
Goldbach said the costumes elicited almost immediate jeers at the event.
“Tonight as we walked we saw people dressed as murderers, devils, serial killers, blood and gore of all sorts. Nobody batted an eye. But my little boy and I, dress as historical figures, and it merits people not only making snide remarks, but approaching us and threatening my little 5-year-old boy,” he wrote on Facebook, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. “That’s right. Tonight grown adults threatened a child over his costume. Threatened his mom and dad as well.”
As the photo started to circulate online — just two days before the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history — it ignited an uproar on social media, where people called the costumes “disgusting” and “immoral” and criticized the father, saying he was teaching his young children to embrace “anti-Semitism” and “hate.” It also prompted questions about Goldbach’s intentions as his social media history revealed memes he had posted, including some stating “White pride doesn’t mean hate” and “Being liberal means being a hypocrite,” according to the Courier & Press.
Goldbach could not immediately be reached for comment, and the posts have since been removed or set to private.
The Rev. Alvin Herring, executive director of Faith in Action, said in a phone interview Monday that incidents such as the one in Kentucky can be “quite dangerous in a moment like this where tensions are already high.”
Herring said Halloween costumes are a reminder that, for some, “anti-Semitism is a way in which they see the world.”
“Anti-Semitism by any other name is hate,” he said, “and any action, intentional or unintentional, that communicates hate contributes to violence in this country. It creates a violent and intense moment.”
Goldbach claimed that “we love history, and often dress the part of historical figures.”
Amid the backlash, he apologized for the Nazi costumes, telling ABC affiliate WEHT that “I think it was in bad taste for me to let my child wear that, probably for me to wear that. It didn’t occur to me.” He told the Owensboro Times that he has previously gone as a Confederate soldier and a Catholic priest.
“I’m sorry,” Goldbach told the station. “I feel like I’ve hurt a lot of people, and I’d give anything to make it right.”
The photo in question, which Goldbach seems to have posted and then removed from Facebook, showed him wearing what appeared to be a Nazi soldier uniform and his 5-year-old son wearing a deep-green suit with a swastika armband — as well as a miniature drawn-on version of Hitler’s iconic mustache.
Goldbach said on Facebook that adults, “screaming obscenities,” threatened to rip off his son’s costume at the festival.
“First off, its none of your business. Second, how dare you!” he wrote, according to the Courier & Press. “I mean How dare you threaten a child. Me, it’s one thing, but my child? You are messing with fire."
But when the photo of the costumes was posted online, Goldbach attacked liberals for what he said was intolerance.
“Yes, liberalism is alive and well,” he added. “And we had the dis-pleasure of dealing with the fruits of the so called ’Tolerant Left.’ ”
On Goldbach’s Facebook page, which appears to have a profile photo of an emoji-like figure holding a German flag, he had previously posted a meme reading “White pride doesn’t mean hate.” It was marked with a logo that appeared to be the Celtic cross, which the Anti-Defamation League calls a “hate symbol,” noting that it’s “one of the most important and commonly used white supremacist symbols.”
Herring said “white pride” comments are “troubling” because they are “often made by people who have tremendous hate or fear or contempt for those who are different from themselves” or by people “who have a racist agenda.”
He said that he does not know Goldbach’s situation but that it “behooves” everyone to understand history to “ensure that what we say and do does not contribute to violence but speaks against it.”
Herring said that what makes the Kentucky incident “so troubling” is that Goldbach dressed his son as someone who was responsible for “casting the world into war.”
“Most of us who have children were sickened by that,” he said.