Madison Children’s Museum fires employee seen in Hitler costume on State Street

State Street Capitol

MADISON, Wis. — A man seen wearing an Adolf Hitler costume on State Street was fired from his job Tuesday.

The Madison Children’s Museum said in a statement Tuesday that they terminated the man’s employment due to the incident on Halloween weekend. The following statement was issued.

The organization has determined that his continued employment would create an environment at odds with our values and unwelcoming to visitors and staff.

We still hope to facilitate a restorative justice process to redress the harm done to the community while allowing him to understand the effects of his actions and accept accountability.

Madison police said the man has a cognitive impairment.

Police said they received “numerous reports” Saturday about the man during Halloween celebrations. On Monday, the Madison Police Department issued the following statement.

The Madison Police Department is aware of an individual who was in the downtown area dressed as Adolf Hitler on Saturday evening. Numerous reports of this subject had come to MPD on Saturday night, and this individual has received significant attention on social media.

While this display of a costume was certainly offensive and reprehensible, this alone does not rise to a criminal act. MPD took a variety of reports, listening to and empathizing with the individuals that called reporting their concern over this individual’s costume. While the fear and disgust expressed was entirely valid, no reports received by MPD rise to the level of a prosecutable crime. This individual engaged in protected freedoms of speech and expression, and despite the troubling nature of the expression, this alone is not a crime.

In response, MPD was quickly able to identify this individual and made contact with him on Sunday. The individual was interviewed about his conduct, and informed of the issues that he caused in our community. This individual lives in the Madison area, but not in the City of Madison. It has also been confirmed that this person is not a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison. During the course of the investigation, it was also learned that the individual has a cognitive impairment due to a past traumatic brain injury.

UW-Madison and Jewish student groups issued statements Sunday regarding the incident, which came just over a month after antisemitic messages written in chalk were found at locations around campus.

RELATED: UW-Madison leaders condemn anti-Semitic chalk writings found around campus

In a statement, UW officials said they are aware of the costume.

“UW-Madison stands against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and discrimination,” officials said. “The incident took place off-campus. While we are still in the process of learning more, to the best of our knowledge, the individual involved is not affiliated with UW-Madison.”

On Monday, the Madison Children’s Museum confirmed that the person is a museum employee. The museum condemned the behavior and said the person was suspended. Museum staff issued the following statement.

As widely reported, Saturday night a man in the Downtown area dressed and otherwise portrayed himself as Hitler. It has come to our attention that this person is a Madison Children’s Museum employee.

This is completely unacceptable and runs counter to everything the museum believes. We stand against antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and discrimination.

He has been suspended while we investigate.

This employee has cognitive disabilities due to a traumatic brain injury. His work with the museum over the past 10 years has been closely supervised, coached, and supported. It is our understanding that he believed his costume to be mocking Hitler.

Regardless of his ongoing employment status, we hope to engage this individual in a restorative justice process that would redress the harm done to the community while allowing him to understand the effects of his actions and accept accountability.