Holocaust on Trial

Lewis Greenberg argues his lawn is art in court.

Dec 12, 2007 at 4:00 am

Lewis Greenberg's long battle to preserve The Holocaust Revisited, a collection of metal and wooden sculptures that sprawls across his front and back yard, continues this week in a Ballwin municipal courtroom.

Judge Kathryn Koch halted proceedings late last month, saying she wanted to visit Greenberg's home in Ballwin to see for herself the work that has offended neighbors in the Whispering Oakwood subdivision. Greenberg insists his work is art, and his lawyers say it's protected by the First Amendment. Greenberg's neighbors, though, call it junk. In August, Ballwin city officials ruled it a health hazard and demanded its removal. (See Riverfront Times' previous article, "Holocaust Revisited," August 23, 2007.)

At press time, the court had not yet reconvened to hear final arguments and render judgment. Greenberg's lawyers David Howard and Veronica Johnson don't anticipate a favorable outcome and, as a result, last month filed a preliminary injunction in federal court to protect Holocaust. "We don't trust the city not to come out with bulldozers the day after the trial," says Howard. If Greenberg loses, his attorneys intend to appeal the case to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Missouri.

"Ultimately we will prevail," adds Johnson. "It's not a unique legal issue. The [U.S.] Supreme Court has ruled that artwork is constitutionally protected. The state or city would have to prove there is a 'compelling state interest' for removing the art, and we don't think Ballwin can prove that interest."

Meanwhile, says Howard, Greenberg's largest problem will be covering his legal fees. In addition to the trial over The Holocaust Revisited, Greenberg faces charges of stalking and harassing his next-door neighbor Tim Purviance. (Greenberg and Purviance have accused each other of harassment since 2004.) Greenberg has appealed to the American Civil Liberties Union and the B'Nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League for financial assistance.