“A symbol is a person or a concept that represents, stands for or suggests another idea, visual images, belief, action or material entity.”
Through enough exposure, a symbol can quickly become something we recognise without thinking much like a well known brand or logo. A red octagon is imprinted in our brain to mean stop even if it doesn’t say the word stop on it. A red circle with a line through it means no entry and so forth. A symbol can be a very powerful thing when placed in the wrong hands. So at what point does a symbol become propaganda.
“Propaganda is a form of biased communication, aimed at promoting or demoting certain views, perceptions or agendas.”
Then at what point does propaganda transform a symbol into something that can not be saved. The Swastika was one of the earliest symbols in the Hindu culture that has been traced back to before the 2nd century B.C. It has been used by many different faiths and religions to represent “good luck” and “well being.” However ever since 1933 when the Nazi’s came into power, the Swastika has been turned into a sign of death and evil. So my question is, Can a symbol be saved or does it get to a point when it is no longer a symbol but propaganda that is too far gone?
Graphic designer Steven Heller published a book in 2000 titled ‘Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption’ where he looks at an “ancient token of good fortune that was transformed into the emblem of Nazi Germany.” Within this book Heller looks at life before the war and what the symbol originally embodied. He looks at symbols, their meanings and how a symbols connotations can result in something ‘beyond redemption.’
Essentially we are looking at a symbol much like Nike or Shell or any other large brand, we are so exposed to them we can tell its a Nike jumper by the Swoosh. If you look at the history of Shell as a global organisation, it is clear to see at times it was a universally hated company. However, through rebrandings of their policies and morals, the symbol has been redeemed. The most difficult aspect to swallow about the Swastika, isn’t the symbol itself, its the connotations and horrific memories that seem to be sewn to it. “Prior to 1933 when the Nazi’s took power it was a commercial symbol it was as prevalent and as ubiquitous as the Nike Swoosh. A symbol by itself is meaningless, a symbol in conjunction with an act, a deed or an idea is extremely powerful.” Steven Heller.
In my opinion, although we are looking at a symbol, the Swastika is a subject you have yo extremely careful with. When I look at it I feel pain and discomfort knowing the history that comes with it and I wasn’t even born, so I can’t even imagine how I would feel looking at it if I had been there. There are many groups that are working hard to “save the Swastika” as they believe it was stolen by the Nazi’s and should again reflect “well being” but I believe it is beyond redemption. Although it was a symbol that was stolen by Nazi Germany, it is for majority of people a symbol that represents anti-semitism, death, suffering and a great deal of pain to the entire world. I believe it should stay that way because unfortunately we live in a world that remembers the bad more than the good and it will never mean good again.
“For the Jewish people the swastika is a symbol of fear, of suppression, and of extermination. It’s a symbol that we will never ever be able to change, We will always remember what the swastika was like in our life – a symbol of pure evil” says 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller.