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Hate symbol or Buddhist emblem? Hidden Villa cancels summer camps for 1,000 kids after staffers resign over swastika tiles

Original post made on Jun 13, 2022

Hidden Villa canceled all of its summer camp sessions due to the "abrupt departure" of camp staff members upset over the nonprofit's handling of complaints about decorative tiles with Buddhist swastikas on the historic Duveneck House.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 13, 2022, 5:29 PM

Comments (60)

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 13, 2022 at 6:13 pm

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Perhaps part of the delay was due to the fact that the pictured symbols are not Nazi swastikas, which are tilted and reversed compared to the Buddhist symbols of well-being pictured. Just as we can distinguish "+" from "x", I would have hoped we could learn not to mistake the Buddhist symbol for a Nazi one.

There's an interesting article on the symbol's history at the US Holocaust Museum website as "history-of-the-swastika".

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2022 at 8:17 pm

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[Portion removed.]
The swastika is an important symbol in the religions and cultures of many of the children who had enrolled in the camps. These particular instances came from the world's third-largest religion: Buddhism. Those staff members did not explain how a Buddhist symbol would undermine "provid[ing] a safe or affirming environment". Neither did they explain why classifying an important -- if not sacred -- symbol of so many cultures and religions as representing "hate" would not be contrary to values of multi-culturalism, diversity, and inclusion.

The information about swastikas is so readily available on the Internet -- both by web search and from Wikipedia ... -- it is hard for me to believe that the ignorance of those staff members wasn't cultivated.

Posted by Walter Sobchak
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2022 at 8:37 pm

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I remember going into a Jain temple in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) India in 2004. I sat quietly and watched an 80+ year old woman across the room moving small objects around on a table. When I got up to leave, I walked over to see what she’d been designing. It turns out that she’d been taking grains of rice and had formed about a dozen small swastikas in front of her. Outside, my guide told me that that particular meditative ritual had been part of the woman’s daily spiritual practice.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2022 at 9:46 pm

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Frank and Josaphine Duveneck loved these tiles enough to schlep them all the way from Asia to California. The symbol represents the Buddha's footprints - auspicious, bringing good fortune. No wonder they wanted to bring the tiles to their beloved ranch.

After WWII, tens of thousands of friends, family, visitors, staff and campers continued to share Hidden Villa Ranch, not bothered by the tiles. Hidden Villa was given over years ago for community use and the tiles were never a problem because they weren't symbols of hate or racism.

Then suddenly last year "they were" - a longer term employee persisted in saying the tiles of the Buddha's footprints were racist and hateful and were making the ranch feel unsafe for some. Really?

No longer would critical thinking, historical context, artistic significance, or the sweetness of young travelers bringing home something meaningful to them inform others thinking. Emotions would rule.

Short term employees with little to lose and little committment to the longterm success of Hidden Villa became upset, making demands with self-assurance, consequences be damned.

The Board gave in and chisled out the tiles, trying to save camp staffing for a 1,000 kids, then the Director quit anyway and none of the its-the-tiles-or-us short termers returned.

This is just dumb and sad. Kids have gone to camp here and had life changing experiences. To screw it up for these kids and their families because of 3 frickin 100-year old Buddha tiles should shame you quitters that couldn't get beyond yourselves.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2022 at 10:01 pm

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I agree completely with the previous posters.

The swastika symbol has been used by many cultures for centuries. In addition to the Indian subcontinent, it has been used in Europe as part of Celtic decoration and folklore. It is a basic geometric design and particularly in a continuous pattern it is a symbol of well being, fertility or good luck. It is often a double symbol in yin/yan fashion and provided it is in a forward facing fashion it is good luck but the reverse or mirror image is bad luck. When the Nazis used it, it was the reverse symbol and was also tilted and that together with the black, red and white colors, are the typical Nazi symbol.

It comes down to education. Why this has caused problems for the first time this year, and at this time when the camps were about to start? Why can't it be used as a means to educate about other cultures and other symbols since obviously this is not being taught in our schools.

Another question is why isn't this important fact taught in schools when learning about 20th century wars? In California, ethnic studies are often a mandatory class. Or is it only certain ethnicities that are going to be taught?

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 13, 2022 at 10:35 pm

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Re: "...years before the ancient Buddhist emblem was co-opted by Nazis into the hate symbol it's known as today."
This seems to be factually incorrect, as the two emblems are different, if superficially similar. I hope the author will correct the wording - perhaps "years before the Nazis created their superficially similar hate symbol."

Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2022 at 6:04 am

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All the other posters have explained well enough about the history behind the tiles and why they are in fact not swastikas. But they can be confused (both by the innocent and the ignorant ) with swastikas. To allay confusion all that the Hidden Village had to do was to cover them (hide them in fact) forestalling the spread of the conflict with their staff. And if someone is going around pointing and be consumed by symbols of hate and oppression (wrongly as it turns out-those tiles are not swastikas) then they solved nothing at all , contributed to nothing at all for the understanding of History, violence and scapegoating. All in all the events mentioned look more like a power stand than a principle fought. And the 1000 children, some from very low income families loose their summer camp which for some will entail a real hardship as parents were counting on the camp for care for their children while they work. So shame on you Hidden Villa administration and shame on the employees that quit. Both, in my view look as interested in contributing to anything but themselves.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2022 at 6:43 am

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These successful demands are in keeping with the book banning we see growing in our country. Beloved, Catcher in the Rye, tiles.

Posted by Banes
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:39 am

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We see what we wish to see. 1913 Buddhist tiles were very popular in 1913, it was an emblem of peace and prosperity for all. Now do we get rid of all of our antiquities, bulldoze the museums, Because the past generation has been so polarized by politics and Not thru humanities. It’s too bad for the Villa, Kitty for the parents whose children aren’t going to be able to attend programs however they are the generation who grew & raised & taught these young adult children to believe black and white philosophy: everything that resembles a swastika must be a swastika. There’s an old saying; if we choose to forget we will continue to repeat. If we choose to look for evil that’s what we will find.

Posted by Shireen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:44 am

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I think its really sad that they were removed- they are an important historical asset. I completely agree that the villa could have posted educational signage socializing what they were and how they were used in the world later on. It could have been an opportunity for education and now it’s all just gone, and people will never know the history of the symbol. I hope Hidden Villa reconsiders.

Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:46 am

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This is sad, not only for the students who are missing out on Hidden Villa's awesome summer program, but also for Hidden Villa. Based on Hidden Villa's fee schedule, it looks like the non-profit will now miss out on $1M to $1.7M in revenue this year. I hope they are able to meet their budgets. They may need donations from the community. It would be very sad to lose this treasure! DONATE: Web Link

Posted by Banes
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:54 am

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The Buddhist Lotus emblem of peace & prosperity Has been around for thousands of years longer than Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany was around. I say give it back to the Buddhists and honor it as a sign of peace vs. Evil.
This pathetic shortsighted profiling is nothing less than exactly what Adolf Hitler was preaching. Are we all supposed to look the same act the same have the same haircut and wear uniforms like prisoners & slaves.
Who is teaching these shortsided, single minded, Black and white polarized, if it looks like a kettle it must be a kettle and nothing else mentality lessons? If we endorse this kind of behavior, the old saying if we choose to forget our history we are certain to repeat it, will continue.
Do we want to forget about far left groups like the Nazis? All the while, we endorse free expression & religion? How far is too far left or right? Do we want to forget about slavery? All the while, sexual predators are kidnapping young people on a daily basis and turning them into sex slaves, And when they are too old to be used by the primary predators they become the kidnappers .
I say we do not want to forget or we will forever repeat.

Posted by Jane D
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2022 at 10:54 am

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What a tragedy that 1000 kids and their families lost their summer camp based on the ignorance of some staff and leadership. It would have been so simple to put up a plaque under the tiles describing their historical context.

Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:02 am

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I am saddened by this entire affair. I agree with the bulk of the above comments, so won't rehash. Unfortunate, what we have here is a knee-jerk PC reaction by those who have resigned, and a large number of children are the losers. Missed was a chance for an educational discussion of the meaning of the symbols and of the hate and horror produced by those who used the modified Nazi version. That being said, Hidden Villa's management seems to have mismanaged the affair, which got out of hand.

Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:29 am

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I hope Hidden Villa educated the employees who are leaving that this Buddhist symbol is NOT a swastika. It is a mirror image and predates the Nazi usage by thousands of years. It should have been an educational opportunity for those who resigned over protest.

I remember traveling in Thailand years ago and was shocked by seeing what I thought was a Nazi symbol. My traveling partner explained that it is the mirror image of the swastika and pre-dated the Nazi symbol. It was an aha moment.

Such a shame - What may have seemed to be an ideological protest is actually ignorance about one of the worlds oldest religions.

Posted by Dina HASSANEIN
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:30 am

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Absolutely agree with all the comments here. It is such a shame that this was not used as a teaching moment to educate people about Buddhism and the significance of this symbol and highlight the difference between it and a hate symbol.

I’ve been going to Hidden Villa since I was a child - 35+ years. It is a magical place that has always served as a community center. Many of my fondest memories were there. It is a place for learning and acceptance. I am so sad to hear that a few people, who don’t take time to put things into context, would completely destroy that narrative. Are we to think Hidden Villa has been operating as a secret Nazi Training Camp? Seriously! If I was Buddhist, I would be deeply offended by this complete lack of awareness and unwillingness to try to understand both the difference of the symbols and the spiritual significance of it. We talk a lot about DEI, but when it comes to doing ANYTHING meaningful, somehow we fall far short of the mark. I am sorry to Hidden Villa, to the campers who would have benefited immensely from having a rich and inclusive learning experience at Hidden Villa, and most of all to Buddhists who have had their symbol hijacked and transformed to a symbol synonymous with hate. Buddhists have every right to reclaim their symbol for what it is and for the rest of us to appreciate what it means to the approximately 500 million Buddhists in the world today.

Posted by Claudette
a resident of Woodside
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:36 am

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Ignorance, selfish behavior, entitlement ...a growing plague of our times. I’m sad for all the children and their families who were impacted by this closure.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 11:55 am

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Weekly. Please change the title of this article. "Hate symbol or Buddhist emblem?" Really? There's no question.

Try "Hidden Villa Camps Cancelled as Staffers Confuse Buddhist Tiles for Hate Symbols"

Posted by ralphc
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:13 pm

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I agree with others who have posted comments. How sad this is. Frank and Josephine Duveneck lived their whole lives as peace loving good citizens and dedicated their farm to racial diversity and humanity. They especially wanted the property to be used by underprivileged children.
The symbols aren't Nazi as any educated Jew is fully aware. I can't help but believe that calm and reasonable communication between the parties could have prevented this sad result.

Posted by Frank Johnson
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 14, 2022 at 12:18 pm

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The San Mateo County Courthouse where traffic cases are heard also has reverse swastikas on its interior tiles but they are reversed swatstikas and differ from the kind seen on Nazi flags, warplanes, and tanks.

Some people are getting way too oversensitive on seemingly trivial matters.

Posted by Ramona Fernando
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:00 pm

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I am inspired to learn more about the Duvenecks;
The name I know well, but the details about their lives and accomplishments are sparse. I look forward to reading and exploring local treasures including Hidden Villa. Discovering the Duvenecks shall be my summer project. The following quote is from biographer, James Ott:

"Starting in the 1940s, the family created a haven for the disadvantaged in society. They operated summer camps for the poor at Hidden Villa and opened it to refugees from Nazi Germany, Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, and field workers from Cesar Chavez’s unionization movement in California."

Posted by Donya
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:16 pm

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I find the removal of these tiles outrageous. How can we deface a historical building for such unfounded reasons? These tiles are educational and teach kids how the Nazis took cultural symbols of far away cultures, changed the looks slightly and adopted them as symbols of hate.
Our children are able to understand subtlety. If a camper felt unsafe looking at those tiles after hearing the history of it, I would suggest that the parents needed to talk to that child and if need be have a therapist visit.
I would like to suggest to Hidden Villa to put those tiles back.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:40 pm

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Why do people keep calling this a Buddhist symbol, when it's mostly used as a Hindu symbol (at least today)? I've seen the swastika all over India and Nepal (every truck, for example, seems to have one), and while I've been to many majority Buddhist countries as well (Thailand, Myanmar, etc), I've never seen one there (except for the actual Nazi swastika, but that's a whole different issue...).

I can see how the US developed an aversion to the swastika in all its forms back when the US was less multicultural and more ethnocentric. But it's time to stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and learn about and be more accepting of other cultures and religions, and their symbols.

ps, for those saying the Nazi one is "reversed," that's completely false, as it appears both ways/directions by those who use it today.

Posted by Hindu-American
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:42 pm

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As a Hindu-American, this article makes me sad. Mainly because the cultural ignorance behind this brouhaha is staggering and upsetting. Did you know that Hindu-Americans, Buddhist-Americans, and Jain-Americans ALSO live in the United States and that the swastika is deeply meaningful to our culture and has been for thousands of years? My Hindu parents have a swastika on their wedding album as a symbol of good luck. I'm just shocked this happened in California of all places.

Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:49 pm

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This debacle is the natural outcome of kids being brainwashed by their teachers and university professors with grievance identity politics, ignorant of history with no desire to learn, believing they are virtuous by pretending to be offended and "unsafe", and behaving like spoiled, entitled brats when they don't get their way -- in this situation, ruining the summer camp experience for a thousand kids.

And as others have pointed out, the people in charge were unable to tell the confused would-be-employees that they were wrong about the history, wrong about the symbols, and wrong to make foolish demands. Recent history demonstrates that the only way to handle woke craziness is to call it out without ambiguity and never to give in to absurd demands. The administrators gave in, removed the tiles, and the kids walked.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:57 pm

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Utterly ridiculous! Inaccurate sensationalism. A SF newspaper had a sensationalized headline on this the other day.
I’m saddened to have these staffers use this made up pretend hate issue for some reason - my guess is they must have another grievance - resulting in cancellation of summer camp for hundreds of kids.
The Duvenecks (long deceased), nor their camp, farm were/are racist: anything but!
But what a COOL fake grievance, how FUN to work it.

Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2022 at 1:59 pm

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If Hitler used burger as Nazi's official food of choice, what are we going to do? Not eating a burger?

Posted by concerned citizen of palo alto
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 14, 2022 at 2:03 pm

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Ridiculous that this happened. Had ONE PERSON take the time to educate everyone about the Buddhist symbol etc…etc…it could have tuned out so differently (camp and staff intact!) and everyone could have learned some significant and important history! Once again logical reasoning and quality communication looses out to emotion and stupidity running the world these days.
And as a Jew…such inflamed sensationalized headlines such as this one suggest that “the Jews” and jewish concerns ruined things for 1000 and staff children when this is really not the case. Very sad for all involved.

Posted by systemBuilder
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 14, 2022 at 2:15 pm

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I completely disagree with 90% of these comments. This piece of metal on the side of a building is a decoration. Given that it's a decoration if it might offend someone even if the offense is taken because people are ignorant of whether it's flipped forwards or backwards it's a freaking decoration just take it down and use a different decoration - problem solved!

Putting religious symbols on buildings that are not places of worship is the recipe for problems down the road. You should not be endorsing any religion at summer camp that is not focused on that particular religion!

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2022 at 2:33 pm

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Heaven forbid we teach children (or adults) to put history and symbols into context. Not everything in the past was viewed the same as it is today nor does it revolve around current, and often easily offended, sensibilities.

Posted by systemBuilder
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 14, 2022 at 2:52 pm

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I have the most famous collection of children's stories from the 20th century and in some of the fairytales they use the 19th-century word "faggot" meaning bundle of sticks. When i read it to my child I transliterate it to "bundle of sticks" i say the term literally as it has come to mean a derogatory name for gay men. Whether something is offensive does not depend on when it was hung on the side of a building. A symbol or word is either offensive or not. What is wrong with you people?

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2022 at 3:19 pm

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systemBuilder, not true at all. The letter "Z" standing alone is probably the best current example. A Russian athlete with it on his top? Yes, that's very offensive, and a Russian gymnast was recently banned from competition for doing that. But does that mean all Zs that happen to appear anywhere are now all to be removed? I say absolutely not. But maybe some who can only think in absolutes (dare I say, "symbol Nazis?"), might disagree.

Posted by Screeedek
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 14, 2022 at 3:46 pm

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I travel throughout Asia. Ive seen these symbols everywhere: India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, etc. They are not Nazi swastikas. Mr James is misinformed. Apparently his cultural acceptance stops with him. It is sad that they had to defile a beautiful historic building.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2022 at 4:26 pm

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What is a true symbol of hate is the “redlining” R1zone Nimbysim occurring since the late 1940’s in Palo Alto. The Duvenek’s worked tirelessly for the inclusion of all cultural identities to live and thrive here and mostly, for the local poor in our midst. (The Navajo’s used this symbol in their spiritual system beliefs)However what everyone above is complaining about is making the power of material “things” over the sentiments or validation of how a devoted and diverse staffs’ concerns were dismissed from mostly white higher ups. Frank and Josephine would have most definitely validated the concerns of their staff and removed the tiles themselves — or confronted this head on with life altering decisions. Their mission for the good health and strength of human kind was so far reaching yet almost forgotten . Things are temporary, human equity and resilience is taken for granted . We are missing strong leaders like K & J. When was the last time any of you volunteered for a just cause instead of reactionary opines get your elbows wet and stop with the jaw flapping !

Posted by Rebecca Barfknecht
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 4:50 pm

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I agree with most of these comments. Sometimes people are way too quick to jump to conclusion about what they think something means. I don't understand why the staff could not explain the meaning and history of those tiles (including the difference in the Nazi symbol and what is in the tile). Letting these children take them down did not teach them anything about inclusion or seeking to understand why something might be the way it is. Bad behavior all around.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:20 pm

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@Rebecca Barfkhnect When we all confront the hard and uncomfortable conversation about the systemic racism in Palo Alto we might get somewhere with progress. Neo liberal jaw flapping opines is not the solution. BLM signs in the yards of the wealthy while these same residents armed to the teeth with money and privilege protect their R1Zones with God Help US! This very private property protection is preventing all cultural identities to live here let alone work and contribute to a social good (like the Duveneks surely once did) . Not in my back yard is a culturally significant “crime”. How many of the resigned HV camp staff actually live in the community where they were employed on low, non wage? Probably next to zero. Hypocrisy falls on the elitist deaf ears of a privileged class. Should the keeping of the camp going was so important to any of these above commenters, why not get up to HV and do the real work for the 1000 children that were sadly dismissed from a lifelong memory of joy???

Posted by EYC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2022 at 5:42 pm

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Feel sorry for the camper families who need to find summer activities for their kids at this short notice/last minutes.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 14, 2022 at 6:56 pm

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Talk about bubbles! I sure as heck hope Peter Hartzell reads these comments. It's the first time EVER in the Palo Alto Online comment section that pretty much every one agrees. It's historic, but yeah, if your deal is social justice sounds like you (Phillip James), then you need to be doing that, not working at Hidden Villa. What a tragedy for all those kids. The kids who attend Hidden Villa camp, many of whom are low income and not white or Asian, benefit enormously. That benefit to the children was sacrificed over something as over blow and ultimately trivial as this is galling.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2022 at 7:07 pm

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How sad for all the kids who won't be able to attend summer camp. It's not like these families will be whisking off to Europe. I don't care about the history or the differences in meaning. All I care about is the kids. Shame on the staff.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2022 at 7:11 pm

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At EYC what is so sad is the chaotic function of Hidden Villa’s board of directors. The way this historic non-profit behaved was like a cooperation of private stock holders. The “cooperation” ignored the lower ranking workers who are heavily relied to the “front line” jobs. Who then brought up safety concerns and were shut down so the workers had no alternative but to quit. As well, why didn’t the Board step in and take charge of the summer program?? Isn’t that why there is a BOARD in the first place. To step in when and where needed. Or is those on the BOARD there for ambitious and self centered reason? Why that is in direct defiance of the Duvineck mission of gods! I like how everyone above shared thier values of Buddhism and world traveling wisdom while not lifting a finger to help the Hidden Villa complete their summer program. The participants would have absolutely no clue as to all the symbolism you’re throwing around means. Los Altos May very be the farthest they travel their entire lives. I find this attitude so demeaning and quite contrary to the true meaning of giving, like the Frank and Josephine did!!! BTW most of the summer programs are East Palo Alto participants. No one has mentioned that yet. Welcome to camp, now go home. I am so so so proud of these employees for standing up for their beliefs. It took courage after months of negotiations that got no where w a BOD. Shame. Kids are resilient, right? Does not sound like HV is what the Duvenek’s true work and legacy hoped to do!!! We live in COVID induced , mostly have’s society with punishing rules that contour to oppress and ignore REAL and significant change.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2022 at 7:29 pm

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@Deborah and @Jennifer. Have you ever worked a low wage job keeping the safety of very disadvantaged kids lives in your hands?? I have and it is extraordinarily hard work for little pay and tons of responsibility! Si what the bubble is Palo Alto and Los Altos is that HV is a shadow of it’s former self and the mission and philosophy of F & J Duvineck. Yes we all lose when children lose . Yet the very voices of those in charge of the kiddos were not given credence only sandbagged! Yet the councilors are not much better off financially or other then the very children they are hired to protect and help. Disgusting class privilege of a few very wealthy is wrecking the soul of our Democratic values of giving back. I am made I’ll by such ignorance with 90% of the commenters. And no Hitler did not “co-opt” the swastika, he outright stole the symbol, reversed its significant spiritual meaning and tilted it toward a hideous end goal. If we want equality end economic hardship by reversing “co-opting” R1 “redlining” in Palo Alto. I don’t buy one comment above until everyone works together to solve real deep problems like inequity in our own back yards!! Serving poor kids by day, so they go home to mostly EPA and worry about gun violence at night. Hypocrisy to inth degree

Posted by Los Altos Hills
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 14, 2022 at 8:11 pm

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These comments are embarrassing and truly miss the point; staff resigned due to the way Hidden Villa handled complaints, not due to the symbol itself. They completely ignored an employee’s complaints, and only took action (immediate action, at that) once the collective spoke up. To them, one rogue employee is disposable, but the instant their overall structure is threatened, things suddenly get done. Argue all you want about the symbol itself, but I have nothing but respect for the underpaid employees who everyone expects to babysit their kids all summer long. Hidden Villa has been charging Silicon Valley prices for camps and paying them minimum wage for years, and the simple reality is they have a lot more power than they’ve been given credit for. Your choice to come on here and criticize them only shows how right their actions were; these are the people working to make your child’s summer, and the second they decide they’re tired of babysitting dozens of kids for $18/hour they face nothing but criticism. Make the effort to spend some time with your own kids this summer; Hidden Villa is still open every day, but 95% of these kids won’t set foot on the premises now that it’s not a cheap way to stash them while you go shopping.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2022 at 8:27 pm

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Native to the BAY -- Have I ever worked with disadvantaged kids whose safety was in my hands? Worked for low wages, no. Volunteered, yes. As an undergrad and grad student in Los Angeles. Most of the kids were from South Central and East LA. You're right, it was hard work, and a lot of responsibility. And very rewarding.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2022 at 8:40 pm

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The camp staff cannot be easily replaced by anyone of the commenters at a moment's notice! Camp staff nowadays are perhaps students with energy and enthusiasm more than anything else. But, they have had to have background checks and knowledge of what is expected of camp staff. Could I do that, well I could be a willing volunteer, but doubt if I would be a suitable candidate at other levels.

The staff will presumably want to be able to use this summer experience on their resume for further employment or college careers. I hope that they get a note that they let down their campers and employers. I hope that they are not able to spin this as something to make them sound reliable and trustworthy. I personally wouldn't want them as future employees of mine.

Posted by Keshav
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 15, 2022 at 6:01 am

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It's sad that ignorance of a few will affect hundreds of kids. This could have been a teaching moment but instead became an opportunity for a few nameless employees to unfairly affect so many. This is the epitome of knee jerk reactionary politics. Then again, maybe it's better that this uneducated and ignorant lot of employees not lead camps of any sort. I would have fired those employees and replaced them rather than succumbing to their demands to remove the tiles. Pandering to a few ignorant individuals to the detriment of many is not the answer. I would fault leadership at Hidden Villa for taking down these tiles. Why not educate them instead? If that doesn't work, dismiss them to pursue their own fantasies and persecution delusions. Those employees that quit have no place being camp counselors or leaders anyway. They need to be called out on this. I do empathize with any employer now as it's very tough to get employees now, let alone good ones.

Posted by MIdtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2022 at 9:26 am

MIdtown resident is a registered user.

Yes, This is a religious symbol for Hindus too, with no connotations of hate at all. It's sad that it was used by the Nazis. It is still used widely in India. My mom would draw it on the ground in front of our house and last year I attended a wedding at a building called the swastika. We have to publicize that fact that not all depictions of the symbol are hateful.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2022 at 11:08 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@LosAltos Hills. Yes it took collective courage to start conversations for these underpaid; high stress jobs. Like I’ve remarked the article and commenters miss the profound and powerful message of collective bargaining. Importance of things over people is the demise of our society.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 16, 2022 at 1:34 pm

Rose is a registered user.

Bottom line: It was selfish and mean for those four staffers to resign right before camp, no matter what their feelings were about the Asian tiles. They dumped their anger on children. Unforgivable.

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2022 at 2:13 pm

MP Resident is a registered user.

While families are inconvenienced, the HV Board could have prevented this debacle by removing or covering months ago. Camp Staff surely knows the history of this symbol prior to Nazis co-opting it. However, their job is to provide a healthy and safe space for kids who in todays modern era only know the swastika related to the holocaust and nothing else. It’s not the camp staffs job to educate children on the history of the swastika while enjoying the outdoors. Previous commenters should aim their vitriol at the HV Board and not well meaning staff.

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2022 at 5:57 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

For those interested in Buddhism and the history its believers using swastikas, I suggest the following reliable image website:
Web Link
There also are ample trustworthy online articles that discuss this issue, particularly for SE Asian peoples.

Me, I've formed no opinion on this issue because for me, the most important issue by far to be addressed is the "original intent" of the people who authorized and built that building. A symbol is just a symbol unless you know the intent behind its use.

Posted by Rob Holmes
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Jun 17, 2022 at 2:17 pm

Rob Holmes is a registered user.

The tiles are in fact swastika. The Nazi symbol is properly called hakenkreuz.

Posted by Duveneck neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2022 at 2:48 pm

Duveneck neighbor is a registered user.

Why were they chiseled out (I assume this process is destructive)?

They could have been simply covered over, until staff and leadership had enough time and space to work through the issues, rather than being under the sword of Damocles, of the impending start of the camp season, and the impending/threatened resignations.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 20, 2022 at 11:59 am

Rose is a registered user.

The Duveneck House is a historic home with an incredibly rich history. All Hidden Villa had to do was to use the tiles as a learning opportunity. Children can appreciate that symbols have different meanings in different cultures and all cultures borrow from each other. One can take the narrow and negative view -- it's a symbol of the Nazis -- or we can understand it in its broader sense -- it is a symbol that means different things to different people. Unfortunately the Nazis borrowed it. But its symmetry and its longer history and meaning are beautiful. We have to help children understand life in context. HV could have put up a plaque and made it a teaching opportunity -- for both the children and the STAFF! Opportunity lost.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Duvenwcknieghbor et al., The HV Board did nothing but cover themselves and their ineptitude and blame cancelations on it’s staff. This is the injustice. Boards are supposed to jump in and help, solve problems, and take collective action to preserve the mission of the summer camp for kids. Instead they took the low road and placed blame on the already overburdened underpaid staff who spoke up. It’s entirely the Boards responsibility to safeguard it’s programs not to take their toys and go home, I also find all the so called “educated” grandstanding about international symbols and Buddhist faiths practices really elitist. Like these poor kids know about world travel, and Eastern philosophies — it talks down to low-income with very little access to International “lofty” ideals/beliefs. The Board might have stepped up and stepped in when and where they most needed. Everyone lost on this one. Surprised this has not been picked up by national news. Speaks volumes to where our community is as extreme wealth has overwhelmed a true mission to help those less fortunate. Obviously there has to be a reorganization of this long standing amazing program which has lost it’s way over the last 20 years.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2022 at 2:00 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Is there any updated news on this?

This is one of those news stories that are posted and we never hear about what happened next apart from over the legends of the past such as the Black Mamba.

Children learn from their elders and that includes teens and 20s staff members. Teaching about the differences in symbols is important in such a diversely cultured community. What many children have discovered from this as far as we know is that there are some possible hate symbols that have ruined camps and caused problems for families who now have childcare problems. Nobody has won and everyone has lost out.

Please do follow up article.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Annette is a registered user.

This situation got ridiculously out of hand; badly handled all the way around. The article says the tiles were taken down. Does anyone know if they are intact? Can they be put back?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2022 at 7:31 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Echoing Annette's point. Use this as a teaching opportunity -- and there's SO many lessons to be learned.

Posted by E
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 27, 2022 at 9:59 pm

E is a registered user.

I honestly find this a difficult question to think about. I'm keeping an open mind even though my mind wants me to say "take it down" but another part thinks "leave it up".

I feel these questions and statements are worth considering:

1. At that point, it was not a hate symbol, but now it looks like arguably one of the most hateful symbols, a symbol that was utilized for years to arrest, torture, starve, burn, and kill Jews, 6 million of them approximately. And another 5million for reasons including disabilities, homosexuality, POWs, and not being as "Aryan blooded". So how do we think about it now? What first comes to mind when you see that symbol?

2. This is also a symbol that is a Buddhist symbol, an important cultural artifact that shows relationships the Duveneck family had at that time, many years before the symbol was turned into a symbol of hatred, cruelty, and discrimination, but what will people think of when they see it? A Buddhist symbol or a sign of Nazism.

3. If this symbol does get put up again, I believe there should be a plaque talking about the mixed history. It's important for those seeing it to know what the history behind it is.

Like Elie Wiesel wrote,

"Forgetting isn't healing". We will repeat the past if we forget it.

Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2022 at 12:26 pm

staying home is a registered user.

Staff attempted to work with Hidden Villa to resolve this. It was the lack of a reasonable response that caused the staff to leave. Sounds like incompetent management to me.

Posted by RA
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2022 at 8:11 am

RA is a registered user.

This is a tragic irony, that the very thing the Nazis co-opted the symbol to stand for—naked hatred and intolerance of others in the service of power and control—is how it was embraced here. The ignorance and malice of the summer staff is disheartening, to say the least. The Nazis made similar arguments about how the mere existence of others was a threat to their safety, and exploited it at every opportunity to subvert, control and polarize. Just shameful.

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