Artist who posted Nazi message at Packard Plant targets Brewster Projects with commentary on poor


Penny Gaff
Photo courtesy of Penny Gaff

Remnants of the past residents are scattered throughout the abandoned row houses at the Brewster Projects in Detroit – tattered stuffed animals and couches, dirty mattresses, books and clothes.

Erected on the front lawns are what look like real estate signs, but read, “Collateral Damage” on one side, and “Yankee Go Home” on the other.

It’s the second installation in a series called “We are zombies” by guerrilla artist “Penny Gaff.”

The artist said the idea is to call attention to the forgotten Detroiters who were victimized by greedy politicians and corporations.

“This latest work is a commentary on the condition and lives of those (domestic and foreign)  that are not part of the hyper-narrative,” Gaff wrote us in an email.

Packard SignHis first installation got national attention after the Anti-Defamation League called it anti-Semitic. Gaff posted the infamous German slogan, Arbeit Macht Frei, which translates to “Work Will Make you Free,” on the overpass of the abandoned Packard Plant. The slogan was spelled out in the same font as the one posted on the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1940s.

Gaff said the sign was commentary on the “economic genocide” that left much of Detroit in ruins.

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Steve Neavling, who lives on the city’s east side, is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Neavling explores corruption, Detroit’s unsung heroes and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.