Recently in Russia, Lithuanian products bearing a swastika have appeared. A Lithuanian court announced that the swastika is a part of the historic heritage of Lithuania.
“It is not a Nazi attribute, but a valuable symbol of the Baltic culture, an ancient sign of our ancestors, which had been stolen from them and treacherously used by other peoples,” one of the defense witnesses said.
I had a difficult time giving a title to this post — “A Sign of the Times”, “Hard to Believe”? Even as the Lithuanians claim it’s not a Nazi tribute (which it surely isn’t), I know this will inflame tensions, since there is a rise in neo-Nazism in Russia and other European countries.
7 thoughts on “Lithuanian Swastikas”
So, what do you think? I’ve rather felt it unfair that Hitler was able to steal such a long-standing and meaningful symbol of many cultures. Like the rainbow becoming a symbol of the gay lifestyle – it is just not right! That is a long-standing symbol to Christians that means something very different.
My son was severely chastised as a little boy for a project he did on Native Americans where he chose a very important Native American symbol – which we’d label a swastika – for the centerpiece. Since he was only 9 or 10 and could not have identified a “Nazi” and didn’t know the word swastika (to say nothing about pointing helplessly to his resource materials) he was devastated by his teacher’s reaction. At that time I began to wonder why some evil person could get away with hijacking a symbol that the Native Americans used for thousands of years before Hitler was born.
Still, as I look at the items in the shopping cart, I can’t help but be a little alarmed.
I share your feelings. I, too, have quite mixed emotions about it. The swastika is still a powerful symbol of Hitler’s national-socialists. And it’s a shame that symbols can be ‘hijacked’ and ‘ruined’ for generations.
You might be interested in reading the following quote from the Finnish Air Force website:
“The swastika has been used since ancient times both as an ornament and a motif. It is known to appear, among other applications, in the sewing works of the Finno-Ugric peoples until the modern days. The swastika is very often construed as a symbol of good luck.”
“The first publicly displayed swastika motif in Finland is probably the swastika ornament around Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Aino triptych from 1891. This painting is currently hung in the stateroom of the Bank of Finland in Helsinki. The armed forces of Finland adopted the swastika during the Civil War in 1918. Swedish Count Eric von Rosen donated the White Army a Thulin type D airplane in Vaasa on March 6, 1918. On the wings he had painted blue swastikas, his personal mofif of good luck, in Umeå on March 2, before the airplane took off for the crossing of Gulf of Bothnia. After landing in Vaasa the airplane was incorporated as Aircraft Number 1 in the parc d’avions of Finland, later to be renamed the Aviation Force. It was therefore decided to adopt the blue swastika on a white circular background as the national marking, and this was retained until 1945 when it was superseded by the current roundel due to a directive issued by the Allied Control Commission.”
“The directive, however, did not require that the symbol be replaced in other Air Force symbols and flags where it remains in use.”
“…It is not a Nazi attribute, but a valuable symbol of the Baltic culture…”
Much ado about nothing. I mean, i’ve read other responses in other websites too. By “it” there were meant archaeological findings with the swastikas and not the concrete nazi swastika which is sort of trade mark or something. And btw everything was said in lithuanian, no word in english or russian or any other language, so one should read the original and then make adequate judgements. Now, honestly, all this (i mean in other discussions) english crap is based on english fantazies of the commentators.
Also it’s pitty to read that “that symbols can be ‘hijacked’ and ‘ruined’ for generations”. Are most humans that dumb? They should be educated by force then 😀 . Joke 😉
Thanks for the comments. Perhaps you’re from Lithuania or of Lithuanian descent? I see that you’re from that area.
I must admit, though, that I don’t like being called dumb on my own website.
I hope you realized that this is not a case of anti-Lithuanianism. I really respect the Baltic countries, have spent a lot of time in Estonia and have been in Latvia and Lithuania on several occasions.
I know there have been swastikas used in other cultures long before the Nazis adopted it. And yet, many people clearly have strongly negative emotional responses to the swastika because of it’s use by the Nazis. It’s jarring to see it on a package of cheese. This negative response will surely fade over time.
The reason symbols are so important is because of the non-literal power they can carry. The Finns, who also use the swastika, are talking about this very issue in Finnish. So your point about not reading Lithuanian misses the broader issue. I imagine Germans who don’t read Lithuanian also (rightly) have views about this particular symbol, especially since the examples in the pictures above are very much like the Nazi swastika (black on a circular white field, surrounded by red). The Finnish swastika has a different appearance on a blue field and still brings about mixed emotions in people.
Many other people, even Finns (personal friends of mine) who also use the swastika, have very mixed feelings about the use of this particular symbol. This initial repulsion when viewing this symbol is affecting generations (my grandparents, my parents, and me for example), and that’s a shame.
So we agree that it’s too bad this symbol has been ‘ruined’ for generations; clearly you wish it weren’t perceived with such a negative response; I share that view.
I hope this use of the swastika by the Lithuanians (and Finns) will help weaken the link between it and the Nazis, but for now the link remains very strong to many people in many different cultures.
Sorry, i didn’t and don’t call you dumb, i just looked at the part of “humanity” (human race) a bit ironically, as the man often is described as a “smartest” creature in the Universe, and at the same time many of them constantly prove the opposite 😉
Actually i’m a bit surprised that, say, Finns “have very mixed feelings about the use of” swastika. Why to use it at all if there is no need to use it? And there are 2 kinds of need: if one is neonazi, then he or she is using this well-known trade-mark of nazism, a swastika of particular design, or even it may be in the other shape, not swastika, but also clearly identified. And the other reason is either scietific/artistic/educational or just if you use it in the religious (“shamanic” or so) practice. Like the cross is used in christian religion.
So, i mean, i don’t see the reason, why the feelings should be mixed? I don’t justify, don’t ask and don’t argue. If the feelings are mixed, then let it be mixed, what can i say :D. For me, for everybody i know personally, and in fact the general attitude in our society is that there are ‘genuine’ swastikas, and there are ‘symbols of nazism’ in the shape of swastika, or in similar or even quite different shape. And the court in Klaipėda simply set these distinctions to rights.
As for my suggestion to read lithuanian – well, i’ve read in other discussions (elswhere) incredibly crazy conclusions and interpretations based on that english text. So, if the issue is so sensitive for those foreigners, and if they are so much interested in this case, so it would be wise to study the sourses more deep. Before starting to express their own personal opinions :). Those personal opinions may be a bit insulting for others, and if they are so honest, wise and smart people, they, naturally, should take it into account :D. As i said, i’m a bit ironic, so forgive me if there was some unintentional rudiness in my post or something 😉
Thank you for your kind reply. I’m very glad to understand your views better. And thank you for your apology; it is accepted. I hope I haven’t offended you in any way. I’ll follow up offline.