Swastika Controversy in Germany: Are Any Symbols Beyond Redemption?

Via Raw Story:

In what must be an extraordinary act of naivete (or likely extraordinary fatuousness), Russian singer Yevgeny Nikitin claims not to have known that his Swastika tattoo was in any way connected with the Nazi party or its Neo-Nazi brethren.

The row over Nikitin’s tattoos began when the singer was attached to star in a new production of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” at Germany’s Bayreuth music festival. Nikitin claims that the now-infamous symbol holds spiritual, not political, significance for him. Nonetheless, the uproar over Nikitin’s swastika (along with his “Tyr” tattoos) forced him to withdraw from the prestigious festival.

The swastika does indeed have an ancient history (most date it back 3,000 years to ancient India), and versions of it have popped up here and there throughout the world. In the present, the symbol means only one thing to most people: Naziism. It’s hard to believe that any adult Westerner alive would be aware of the symbol’s ancient mythological past, yet have its more recent controversial usage escape them.

If we take Nikitin at his word, then where does that leave us? Should we still consider contemporary usage of the swastika verboten? Is this symbol one that has utterly been tainted? How do we respond to people who wish to restore the symbols mythic – benign – symbolism?

Read more about Nikitin here.

30 Comments on "Swastika Controversy in Germany: Are Any Symbols Beyond Redemption?"

  1. This guy is on a personal and lifelong mission to redeem the symbol:   http://www.manwoman.net

  2. robertpinkerton | Jul 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

    I have a poster of an extremely angry Ganesha engaged in beating the shit out of Nazis because he wants his swastika back from the defilers.

  3. The reason swastikas sprang up around the world is that they represented a spinning comet with four tails that could be seen in sky. 

  4. Joseph Thiebes | Jul 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

    “It’s hard to believe that any adult Westerner alive would be aware of the symbol’s ancient mythological past” — This statement is ridiculous, bizarre, and inane.

    • Joseph Thiebes | Jul 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

      Oh never mind, I see that in context it makes sense. On first reading I didn’t quite get what was being said.

      • In context?  You mean when you read the whole sentence?

      • Yeah, I kinda jumped to conclusions about that sentence too.  As an adult in the Western world I thought at first that that sentence was extremely short-sighted and I was just about ready to get mad before I read the rest of the sentence.

  5. Anarchy Pony | Jul 22, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    Tis a shame that such an ancient and widespread symbol has been corrupted so.

  6. Tchoutoye | Jul 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    “the symbol means only one thing to most people: Naziism”

    To westerners, yes. But demographically speaking they are in the minority.

    • But Nikitin is a westerner

      • Jin The Ninja | Jul 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm |

        regardless, to frame it in solely in a contemporary western european context is eurocentric and intellectually dishonest.

        • Broadly, yes. But when the subject is European, and the context is European, and the controversy is particularly European, I don’t see why it’s intellectually dishonest to point out the ridiculousness of his claim. 

          Look at my above post, about an American lighting a cross on fire today in the U.S. South. For such a person to claim they were just participating in a light-worshipping festival is intellectually dishonest when you cannot avoid such a symbol’s specific meaning in that specific context. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

          And for Nikitin — again, a European, and Russia was more shaped by their engagement with the Nazis nearly than any other European country — for Nikitin to suggest he wasn’t familiar with that particular symbol’s specific meaning is intellectually honest. 

          Context matters. For what it’s worth, Nazi symbolism and its attendant racism is really on a rise in Russia, particularly in prisons. Just because Indians, Native Americans, and Asians have used that symbol does nothing to change the fact that Nikitin is European, not Native American or Indian or Asian, and in his specific context, that symbol has meaning that it doesn’t carry in other places or cultures. Maybe if his tattoo was inside a larger tattoo of Shiva or something, or if he was actually from an Asian culture whose use of the symbol was never tainted, then you’d have something. Otherwise, to ignore the specific context of this case is just blowing smoke. 

          • Communists murdered 100 MILLION and I don’t hear anyone whining about celebrities like Johnny Depp wearing Che Guevara t-shirts.

          • That’s because Che Guevara was an idealogue revolutionary and he never lived to see the results of how communism in Cuba failed.  His reputation remains in the same way that rock stars’ do when they die before they get too old to see their idealism turn to compromise.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |

            context DOES matter, but you seemed to ignore both the context (and substance) of my carefully worded comment. i was  NOT referring to nikitin, i was referring to how the article framed the symbol as per tchoutoye’s original comment. the fact is, in 3/4th of the world, maybe even 5/6th, the symbolism is not derived from genocide, rather a 3000 year old buddhist, hindu, and central asian, and north american first nation tradition.

          • Really? You’re going to go all sophist on us here?

            Okay, so lets just say your 17-word sentence was so careful — where does it say you’re not writing about the article in particular but just about the symbol’s general history? Neither you nor tchoutoye said that the real problem with the article was that it didn’t qualify how a swastika could mean something different to non-European cultures not from the 20th century, so it’s not at all clear how your comment could not be taken in the context of the article in question.

            You could argue the article needed to qualify the various meanings of the swastika, but that’s a little like defining what “basketball” is in an article about the NBA playoffs.

            Could it mean something else? Sure. But how many people today — from just about any industrialized or developing culture around the world — would not know the specific 20th century history of that symbol? While you’re at it, show me the cultures who don’t recognize the Nike swoosh, and the McDonald’s arches. If those people are in Russia, then we can talk.

            But if you now want to say you’re just talking about the non-20th century general history of a symbol, and you’re not referring to this article in particular… okay, but don’t be surprised when us troglodytes mis-take your carefully worded pearls of cosmopolitan wisdom.

  7. DeepCough | Jul 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm |

    The Swastika suffers from the common judgmental fallacy of “guilty by association.” So, until
    there are no more Nazis left, it will always carry with it that stigma.

  8. Imagine someone from the contemporary U.S. South decides to don white robes, a hood and burn a cross — as a celebration of light. Would anyone take that person seriously? Those particular symbols have been freighted with a coat of hate speech precisely because of the ends to which they were put for generations on end, and we still have plenty of people who suffered from where that kind of symbolic speech came from and where it led.

    Now — modern Russia is probably the one country most significantly shaped by its history with Nazi Germany outside of Germany and Austria. If someone claims to not understand their own country’s recent world-shaping history that he lives under each day, that person can safely be dismissed as a лгун.

  9. blackbeard | Jul 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm |

    this dude is a russian with a swastika tattoo and a tyr tattoo
    he’s obviously a neo nazi

  10. He’s either a liar or amazingly stupid.  Either way, he shouldn’t be hired to do anything by anyone.

  11. i was going to bring up manwoman, but cakeypig beat me to it. the magic suvastika is  accompanied by four dots between the arms, representing the feminine principle. what the nazis did is remove the dots, making it a symbol of aggression. one can argue that nazism, at it’s core, is the removal of the feminine from all psycho-spiritual aspects of everything. i always draw in the dots whenever i see one painted on a bathroom stall.

  12. If you look at the ancient sign (in the pic above) and the swastika you will see that the swastika is going the opposite way. I believe the original sign to indicate humankind, the swastika is ‘anti-humanity’.  Maybe someone should look at what way his tattoo is pointing 

    • Calypso_1 | Jul 24, 2012 at 9:18 am |

      Widdershins – though now covered with other tats.  I believe if you look at his whole ensemble of images you can see that this man’s interests extend beyond mere naïve political occultism into the mythological.

  13. Absolutely we should allow the swastika, if only to create discussion about the Nazi movement itself.  What’s been happening in America and the Western World the past decade or so shows a lapse toward fascism again.  You can’t watch a sporting event in America without having to endure a Nazi Rally before the game/race/competition.
    The governments have created a culture of fear of dissent to the point that the populace is encouraged to be “wary” and report those who are suspicious.  People are subjected to the theater of invasive searches if they want to board an airline while the reality is a 24 year old guy in Colorado can have an arsenal shipped to him.  The police are more and more having their power expanded to arrest people for doing anything other than what they are expected to do.
    Meanwhile, groups are being demonized.  Whether it’s illegal aliens, gays, Muslims, the unemployed…whathaveyou, these are the groups, as the Jews were in Nazi Germany, who are being blamed for pretty much everything by the right wing.
    Allowing the fascists to control the symbols of the past that can help us unlock a better future is giving in to them.  And yes, the Thought Police of the Bayreuth festival only help the fascists by having a zero tolerance policy toward common sense.  When we cannot allow someone to make up their own mind in the interest of “protecting” them from information, then that is the beginning of the end.  Using the Nazi association as an excuse to disallow the symbol from its original, and correct, usage is only giving power to the Nazi usage.

    We need to reclaim the swastika, like we need to reclaim the Hebrew Bible, like we need to reclaim psychotropic drugs, like we need to reclaim so many other things that have been twisted and perverted by those who are afraid of the truths the ancients knew.  The dark ages are still here folks and the swastika, the Sun Wheel can be a key to illumination.
    Lux Omnia Vincit

    • Vivian Lee | Nov 6, 2014 at 11:45 pm |

      Really? I’ve watched many events and have NEVER seen a Nazi rally before. In fact, the only Nazi rallies I’ve heard of have been a couple of marches with something like a dozen participants and a thousand protesters. The protesters seem to be keeping the rallies limping along. It sure isn’t the membership.
      I really think you have a poor grasp on the reality of America.

  14. What so many people fail to take into account is that the Swastika is not strictly Asian, or strictly Native American.  It has been used all around the world and known by many names.  This includes all of its European incarnations, AND its pre-Nazi presence in popular US culture.  It was even a Jewish symbol for a while.  Most people don’t fully appreciate just how cruel it was of the Nazis to steal such a powerful symbol from so many cultures, but given that they comitted so many other cruel acts it didn’t astonish me much when I realized that this was an act of cruelty as well.  It is possible that this particular act of cruelty might never be entirely undone, but I think that, with time and determination, it can be mitigated to some extent.

  15. Vivian Lee | Nov 6, 2014 at 11:39 pm |

    The swastika was used for good luck by mid-western and western American Indian tribes. It kinda sucks that they had to lose their sign because of some idiots in Germany.

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