Archives for posts with tag: Swastika

subway seat graffiti

I take my children to school each day via the subway. One morning a week or so ago my six-year-old daughter excitedly told me I had just sat upon a square and to stand up so she could show me. And this is what I saw: a swastika in black permanent marker. But at second glance, I saw something else. Some other subway rider had whipped out her ballpoint pen and filled in the corners of the swastika to make it look like a square. And then she added peace symbols and hearts in the quadrants.

“What’s wrong Mommy? You don’t like the picture?”

Here’s what my first-grade daughter knows and understands so far:

  • She is Jewish
  • Her father is Israeli
  • Her mother (me) is writing a book about her Savta’s extraordinary life (savta is Hebrew for grandmother)

“This is a swastika,” I said. “It’s a symbol of the nazi party.”

(I just now decided that I will not capitalize the “n” in nazi because it somehow legitimizes them; it’ll be capped in my book though, I’ll make sure my editor makes sure of it…).

“The nazi’s wanted to kill all the Jews and they succeeded in killing a lot of us, including some of your relatives. That’s why I’m writing a book about your Savta.”

“How come you never work on the book anymore?” she asked.

How could she have known? (Kids always know). I had spent the last few days contemplating whether or not to leave my job as an editor at BBC to work fulltime on my book. I had taken the position in December 2013 and have barely touched the book since. I miss it. I crave it. I really, really, really need to get back to my book.

“Well, I work fulltime and my life is really busy. I’d like to get back to writing my book,” I said. “What do you think? Should I leave BBC to work fulltime on my book?”

She looked away and then down at the ground.  I could see that she was really thinking about how to respond. And then, “I think it’s a decision you have to make, Mommy.”

Well knock me over with a feather! Holy sh*t! I laughed and hugged her and said, “Thank you my oh-so-wise daughter.”

A week or so later I resigned from the BBC. I’m exhilarated about this decision and as of May 8 I will have a new fulltime job: to complete the manuscript for “What Happened to That Baby.”

For those of you who have been on this intermittent journey with me, please continue to check back. I will try to post somewhat regularly. For those of you who are just joining, welcome! I hope you’ll come visit once in a while too. I encourage discussion on these pages, but I do moderate all comments before posting. Please be respectful and no ad hominem attacks. These are very charged topics but there are ways to engage without resorting to intolerance and hatred.

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peace and love


Credit: Brynn Evans

Finally, the kind of swastika graffiti I like: Anti-swastika graffiti! Found it during an image search for my last post, “8-year-old boy transforms hate in his own neighborhood“.

UPDATE (2/10/12): I heard back from the photographer and she said the photo was taken on a trip to Florence, Italy, in 2008. No story behind it. Feel free to make up your own and post it below. 🙂

I sent an email to Brynn Evans, the photographer, asking for the story behind it. If I hear anything and it’s worth sharing, I’ll be sure to amend this post and let you all know.

Related posts:
You Cannot Wear a Swastika Ironically
Good Jewish Boy, Also Loves Swastikas

A nice story on Huffington Post today about an eight-year-old boy who saw a purple swastika on an advertisement and decided to do something about it.


He went home and made a pink heart and wrote, “Choose Peace” on it. Then he posted it on the ad, covering up most of the swastika. Nice job, kid. And nice job, Mom.


One pair left. Credit: Gothamist

An accessories store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn called Bejeweled is selling $5.99 Swastika earrings. There’s only one pair left. Gawker’s Brian Moylan has some choice words for the store and its clientele: “Greenpoint fauxhemians, you cannot wear a Swastika ironically.”

As pointed out in other articles and posts regarding this incident, the swastikas in the photo are backwards, which has some commenters insisting it’s not the same symbol.

That’s ridiculous.

Yes, the swastika was around way before Hitler appropriated it for his Let’s Kill All Jews agenda, but the key word here is ‘appropriated’. Post-1945, the swastika symbol will never be looked at the same way again. It’s forever tainted by Hitler and his SS-minions. Nobody looking at those earrings is thinking it’s a benign symbol with Hindu or Buddhist origins. The first thing that comes to mind is Hitler and the Holocaust. There’s just no way it doesn’t. Wearing a swastika in Western society and saying it’s not an offensive or aggressive act is ignorant at best. If you’re a Neo-Nazi and you’re not wearing it ironically, then sure, wear it. At least you’re being honest about your intent (yes, I’m being slightly ironic here myself). But if you think it’s OK to wear it, you’re mistaken.

P.S. In researching this post, I discovered a small town in Ontario named Swastika. The town was incorporated in 1908. During WWII the local government renamed the town Winston (after Winston Churchill) but the residents protested and erected a sign that said, “To hell with Hitler, we came up with our name first.”

Related: Good Jewish Boy, Also Loves Swastikas

Credit: Rick Meyerowitz

Talk about Jewish guilt. Steven Heller, former art director for the New York Times for more than 33 years, is obsessed with swastikas. The irony is not lost on him. His grandmother’s family perished in Auschwitz.

As a child of the 1960s, “I developed a healthy hatred for Nazis,” he wrote recently on “Yet I continued to be engrossed (perhaps even awestruck) by their regalia, especially the swastika.”

His fascination with the swastika as design is so strong, he researched it endlessly in an attempt to work through this personal paradox.

“As a designer I have long been fascinated by the unmitigated power of the swastika. Yet as a Jew I am embarrassed by my fascination. This paradox is one reason why I wrote the book “The Swastika: A Symbol Beyond Redemption?” Though working on it did not resolve my conflict. Indeed I have become even more obsessed with the symbol — more drawn to yet repulsed by it.”

Yes it was co-opted by the Nazis and turned into a symbol of hatred when its origins are more benign and spiritual.

As one commenter wrote, “It is ironic that how a symbol has come to represent evil yet the word itself means the opposite: su + asti + a means good + being +(intensifier) in Sanskrit.” [ed. note: this comment is from the same article but posted on his Daily Heller blog on Imprint.]

For me, personally, it will always be a “portal of evil,” as Heller so perfectly describes. But I can’t begrudge him his guilty obsession. We all have our own white whales to chase.