Recent evidence significantly weakens the online argument that Kachka’s owners are “Nazi sympathizers.”
To quickly backtrack, a customer visited James-Beard-nominated Russian restaurant Kachka last week wearing a “Luftwaffe” t-shirt with a bird symbol, spurring a heated social media debate about the graphic’s supposed Nazi ties. Facebook user Deavon Snoke began a now-deleted Facebook campaign on the restaurant’s page in which she accused Kachka of sympathizing with a neo-Nazi. But a different front of Facebook commenters didn’t agree the man was an undeniable white supremacist. It makes sense to note that owner Bonnie Morales is Jewish and her grandmother escaped from the Nazis in Belarus.
Attempting to learn more about the iconography on the t-shirt in question, Eater spoke with Miri Cypers, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest, which is dedicated to identifying and eliminating hate speech and white-supremacist behavior. In short, their organization failed to tie the logo on the shirt to actual Nazi symbols.
Cypers confirmed that Luftwaffe is the name of the current German air force, though it’s sometimes associated with Nazi Germany.
“We have some thoughts as to why somebody would wear it, but it’s really hard to be conclusive about someone’s motives and whether they were sinister or not,” said Cypers. “At this point, there still is a lot of grey area in terms of what wearing a certain symbol means.”
Cypers said that without knowing him personally, it’s unclear whether the customer was a white supremacist, a military buff, a war gamer, or none of the above. She also said no business owner should be expected to parse this sort of symbol.
Kachka co-owner Israel Morales told Eater that the customer happened to return to the restaurant Friday, March 16. After Morales approached him to ask about the shirt, he said he had purchased it at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington. The customer, a tourist from Canada, said he didn’t know anything about the online drama and said he didn’t identify as a neo-Nazi. He didn’t stay for dinner.
Eater couldn’t reach the customer to verify this statement. A representative from the museum issued this statement to a local blogger:
“The shirt referenced was made as part of a 2014 Luftwaffe exhibit and is no longer available. Luftwaffe, which means ‘air force’ in German, has since taken on a new meaning that is not consistent with our values of equality, respect and diversity. Our organization is dedicated to an inclusive environment free of discrimination and intolerance.”
Commenting further on the drama that unfolded March 14 on Facebook, Owner Israel Morales said: “They basically went through and trolled every [Facebook] post we published. They commented on our seder dinner, calling [the customer in question] ‘Bonnie’s Nazi boyfriend.’’’
Morales said commenters posted “easily 80 times” on the restaurant’s site, spending a significant amount of time arguing about the symbolism on the shirt.
“When things like this happen, it’s confusing, it’s troubling. The whole reason why we opened this restaurant was to remember Bonnie’s grandmother, a survivor of the Holocaust,” he said. “Bonnie and her parents are really troubled by this. I’ve become the point person because I’m protective of them, and because Bonnie is still very shaken up.”
The Flying Heritage & Combat Museum and Snoke did not respond to requests for comment. Eater is still attempting to contact the Kachka diner who wore the shirt in to dinner on March 13.
Update: The headline of this story was updated to clarify that the shirt was not a Kachka-brand shirt.
• Kachka [Official]
• Kachka [Facebook]
• The Anti-Defamation League [Official]
• Angry Portland woman attacks Jewish-owned restaurant over suspected Nazi customer [Rawstory]
• Ignore the online haters. Eat at Kachka [Liquidity Preference]
• Some Portlanders Thought A Kachka Customer Was a Neo-Nazi [EPDX]
• Southeast Portland’s Kachka restaurant: The story behind the name [Oregonian]