+
upworthy
Democracy

Minority faiths are bravely campaigning to reclaim the swastika from Hitler's Nazi legacy

Before it was corrupted by Hitler, the swastika was a sacred symbol of good fortune.

swastika hindu, swastika navajo

The swastika is a staple of Diwali in India

Odds are, seeing a swastika invokes only the most unsavory images of hatred, fascism and flagrant racism—both of Nazis and death camps from WWII, and, sadly, of white supremacy groups of today. There's good reason that many note it as a physical manifestation of evil.

However, even if it isn’t widely talked about, it’s no secret that this symbol once had a far more sacred and benevolent meaning among the cultures that actually created it a millennia ago. And as the diaspora of minority faiths continues to diversify the West, these cultures are speaking out in an effort to reclaim the swastika’s original intent. It’s a conversation worth having.


The word “swastika”—or “svastika,” more accurately—comes from Sanskrit, meaning “good fortune” or “wellbeing,” and has been a benevolent staple of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions since ancient times. In Hindu religions, it is associated with Lord Ganesh, the deity who removes all obstacles, and is prominently seen throughout India and Indonesia as families gather to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights.

It’s also not uncommon to see it marked on a Buddhist temple under the name “manji” or throughout China under the name “wan”—both having auspicious connotations. In Jain faith, a swastika represents the four types of birth that an embodied soul might attain until liberation: heavenly, human, animal, or hellish.


Though Asia has the most long-lasting relationship with the swastika, its influence has appeared throughout Eastern Europe, Rome, northern Africa, South, Central and early North America under different names. For example, Indigenous tribes like the Navajo, Hopi and Passamaquoddy call the symbol ‘whirling logs’, again denoting luck and protection.

So positive was the swastika that up until the rise of Nazi Germany, the West wholeheartedly adopted the motif for advertising—it could be found on Coca-Cola memorabilia, beer cans, even on Boy and Girl scout badges. It was always a symbol for peace. That is, until it was stolen, reversed and appropriated to enact unspeakable cruelty.

For many who practice these minority faiths in America, using a swastika in religious practice is met with protests demanding removal, or even defaced property after people assume they are seeing neo-Nazi propaganda. It’s understandable that those whose religions actually created the symbol would find these assumptions unfair, along with the notion that this well intentioned practice should be compromised due to it being associated with heinous acts in only a very recent chapter in the symbols enduring legacy. After all, wouldn’t that be another unjust casualty in a needless war?

On the other hand, there’s no denying that for many, the swastika remains to be a painful symbol of trauma, with no hope of rehabilitation. As New York-based Steven Heller, a design historian and author whose grandfather perished during the Holocaust, said in his book, “Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?”: “A rose by any other name is a rose. In the end it’s how a symbol affects you visually and emotionally. For many, it creates a visceral impact and that’s a fact.” And with the rise of white nationalists and Holocaust denial, it feels particularly important to remain sensitive and validate the history of those affected by Hitler’s horrors.

One potential solution might be using intentional semantics. Hitler only called the symbol a hakenkreuz, or “hooked cross,” and that was the word used in US newspapers up until the early 1930s—ten years after the symbol was introduced as a Nazi emblem. Differentiating Hitler’s red, white and black hakenkreuz from the colorful, sacred swastika’s of faith groups could help shift the language and understanding around it.

Even more to the heart of the matter, perhaps this allowance for distinction—and therefore, nuance—invites a deeper understanding between both sides heavily affected by the symbol. For example, Greta Elbogen, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who lost family members at Auschwitz, found great healing after learning abut the swastika’s original meaning. She told AP News that “hearing that the swastika is beautiful and sacred to so many people is a blessing. It’s time to let go of the past and look to the future.”

Obviously, there’s no easy fix here. Each perspective has a compelling reason to feel the way they do, and a lot of it comes from a valid desire to not see their history erased. The real obstacle is being able to have these types of conversations which honor both concerns without demonizing. As the perverted use of the swastika has shown us, extreme bias breeds hate, and hate is dangerous. The key to moving forward, it feels pretty safe to say, will be compassion.


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Gen Xer explains sense of 'impending doom' that seems to define the Millennial generation

Somebody finally put it into words and a lot of Millenials are feeling seen.

A woman looks to the ground in dispair.

At the end of his YouTube video “Does Anyone Else Feel Like Everything Has Changed?” self-development influencer Stephen Antonioni makes a rather haunting observation: "In many ways, the world is a better place than it was yesterday, just judging by objective measures. But I can't help share the feeling that something is off and perhaps terribly so. And therefore, I have to ask the question: Does anyone else feel like everything has changed?"

The most popular comment on the video, which was liked over 28,000 times was written by a YouTuber named Tracy Smith. Even though, at 57, she’s a Gen Xer, her thoughts have resonated with thousands of Millenials.

“I am 57. Not only does it feel like ‘something wicked this way comes’ but there is also this feeling that the whole world is holding its breath. Almost as though we are all waiting for some catalyst or sign or event that puts an end to this feeling of being put on hold,” Smith wrote. “This vague, unexplained unease we feel. Something terrible lurking just out of our field of vision but we all feel it closing in. I cannot count the number of people who have told me they wish that whatever is going to happen would just get on with it. That this waiting for the thing in the darkness is unbearable.”

Keep ReadingShow less

Melissa Pateras explains how dry cleaning works.


Have you ever wondered what happens at the dry cleaners? Or are you like me, who just assumed the people at the dry cleaners were wizards and never questioned their magic? Turns out, dry cleaners aren't magic and there's actually a pretty interesting explanation of how they came to be and what they do.

Melissa Pateras is known on Tiktok for her laundry knowledge. Seriously, her ability to fold laundry is hypnotizing. This time, she created a video explaining what actually takes place at the dry cleaner and the internet is aghast.

Before Pateras explained what happens in the mysterious world behind the counter of a dry cleaner, she asked a few of her friends what they thought dry cleaning was. Their answers were...interesting to say the least.

One friend surmised, "You put it in a box, right...and then you let some wind, really fast wind, blow around on your clothes and it wipes off all the dirt." The friend, whose username is @unlearn16, continued with her working hypothesis, saying that the clothes are then blasted with infrared heat to sterilize the garments. While that is certainly an interesting theory, that's not what happens.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Doberman's blissful reaction while getting pampered at bathtime goes viral

This "scary" dog's next-level beauty routine proves there's nothing scary about him at all.

Representative Image from Canva

May this adorable video show that Doberman's don't deserve their bad reputation.

Let’s face it, Hollywood has given Doberman’s a bad reputation. So often they are depicted as the canine henchman to the evil villain, that many people assume that’s their temperament in real life.

But the truth is: like just about every dog on the planet, Dobermans are sweet, loyal and affectionate canine companions. And, much like Pit Bulls, they are not nearly as inherently aggressive as pop culture makes them out to be—especially when properly trained.

I mean, just take a look at Atlas. This goodest of good bois recently went viral on TikTok while getting a nice, relaxing bathtime session. He proved that not only are Doberman’s capable of extreme levels of chill, they can have a deep felt appreciation for some good old fashioned pampering.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Gustavo Fring|Canva

Therapists explains being 'touched out' and gives tips to help

Just about every mother has experienced the feeling of being touched out. They may not know that's what it's called, or some may feel embarrassed to admit they're feeling that way due to fear of judgement. But when you think about it, being touched out, especially when you have younger kids seems inevitable.

The sense of your body not belonging to only you can start during pregnancy. Everything you do directly affects your developing fetus, and once the baby is born, it needs a lot of physical contact for proper brain, social, and emotional development. So babies are held a lot outside of feedings. Those babies turn into toddlers who then turn into early school agers, all of whom rely very heavily on co-regulation of their emotions and being physically near their parent to feel safe.

It's pretty much a constant state of being touched throughout much of the day. When psychologist, Dr. Raquel Martin reveals she too feels touched out in a video on Instagram, parents across the internet felt validated.

Keep ReadingShow less

No better time to grab a little shut eye.

For those in the military, sleep can mean the difference between life and death. But shut-eye can be very hard to come by, especially during active conflict.

According to Sharon Ackman, the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School developed a scientific method to help its pilots fall asleep. Through this technique, 96% of the pilots were able to fall asleep in two minutes or less.

Keep ReadingShow less