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BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) — A Republican county auditor seeking re-election has been asked to apologize to a South Carolina GOP official for addressing her with a word used on the gates of Nazi concentration camps.

The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports the Beaufort County Republican Party voted 14-0 to ask county auditor Jim Beckert to write a formal letter of apology to party chairwoman Sherri Zedd, who is Jewish. He twice called her “Arbeit Zedd” in emails.

During the Holocaust, Nazis put the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” — or “Work Sets You Free” — on the gates of concentration camps such as Auschwitz.

The vote came after a candidate forum in Bluffton that Beckert attended. Beckert said Zedd gave the word to him as part of her name and spelled it for him, which she denies. He said he’s considering whether to write the apology.

According to documents handed out at the meeting, two emails sent from Beckert’s Gmail account were addressed to “Arbeit Zedd” in the “to” line. Gmail users can modify the names of contacts in their account settings.

Beckert did not deny sending the emails.

“But I do have to say that I speak, read and write only English,” he said. “And many know that I do have dyslexia, and I have issues with spelling as well. So, when somebody gave me a name that I’d never heard before and was not able to spell, my question was, ‘Spell it.’ But the name was given to me by Mrs. Zedd.”

After the meeting, he said he thought “Arbeit” was a “proper first name.”

When asked about the word and its pairing with a Jewish person’s name, Rabbi Brad Bloom of Hilton Head Island’s Congregation Beth Yam, said: “I’m sure that person, if they were taken on a tour of a concentration camp and saw what ovens are, I’d like to think they’d rethink what they said.”

Beckert is being challenged in the June 12 South Carolina Republican primary by current county deputy treasurer George Wright.


Information from: The Island Packet,