PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- A Kansas resident says he was offended to see a German-built BMW with the Johnson County license plate 'Zyklon'.
'Zyklon B' is a cyanide-based gas that Nazis used during the Holocaust to exterminate millions of Jews in World War II.
“When I was buying the car, looking at this black, high-speed BMW, with a light tan interior, and I just had a lot of imagery of like a hurricane, or a cyclone,” car owner Steven Sanks explained. A Fox 4 viewer took a photo of the car with the license plate "Zyklon," the German word for "cyclone."
“I speak German, I lived in Germany, did a semester abroad,” Sanks added.
Sanks said he got the license plate to go along with his car's "personality" and turbo engine in October.
“The eye of the hurricane is calm and white, you look at the weather pictures, it`s all peaceful and calm in the middle, and it`s all crazier on the outside,” Sanks said.
Sanks said he had no idea what Zyklon B was.
“I never even knew about the Zyklon or Zyklon B gas until a friend mentioned it after I already picked it,” Sanks added. “He goes, 'that was the gas that the Nazis used,' and I didn`t know that.”
“I just find that hard to believe that somebody that`s been to Germany, is an established member of the world, doesn`t realize what it means,” said Alyssa Dinberg, a Jewish activist. She says she's highly offended.
“My immediate thought was that how did the state of Kansas even allow that to happen?” Dinberg added.
Here’s a statement from the Kansas Department of Revenue:
“We screen all applications for personalized license plate combinations and either approve or deny them in accordance with K.S.A 8-132 which states that the combination cannot have a "profane, vulgar, lewd or indecent meaning or connotation… We use tools such as Google, Urban Dictionary, and if necessary a foreign language translation dictionary to determine whether the combination requested meets this definition.
In the application, the user stated that Zyklon is the German word for cyclone, which is accurate.
Often times requested combinations do not meet the statutory definition for us to deny them and many words have different meanings, especially when they are used as proper nouns. That is the case here.
We regret that this individual is offended, but at this time and after careful review, we do not believe we have the statutory authority to pull the plate.”
“If I offended anybody, it wasn't my intention,” said Sanks.
Sanks has decided to replace the plate with a generic plate for now. In the meantime, he's ordered a new personalized plate: "T-I-A-F-U-N"
That’s the German word for typhoon.