Statement on the Historical Significance and the Hateful Message Behind the Swastika

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is outraged by the rising use of antisemitic language and iconography by high-profile figures, including Ye’s (formerly known as Kanye West) recent tweet of the Star of David overlaid with a swastika. While we are concerned that hate speech is increasing rapidly under Twitter’s new policies, we commend Twitter for taking immediate action and suspending Ye’s account.

The swastika was – and is – the most recognizable symbol of Nazi rule. As we teach at the Museum, the word swastika comes from the ancient Sanskrit meaning “good fortune” or “well-being.” It remains a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions.

The Teutonic Knights, a medieval Germanic military and religious order, used the symbol to fight for Christendom. When adopted by the Nazi party in the 1920s, the swastika was used as an emblem promoting Aryan racial pride. It evoked fear in their victims and became a symbol of mass murder, oppression, and blind hatred.

The normalization of the Nazi swastika in today’s society is not only dangerous because it proliferates hatred; it is also profoundly hurtful for Holocaust survivors and the family members of victims who know firsthand the trauma of the Holocaust and the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Words and images matter. We must be ready to speak out against hate speech in all its forms. Antisemitism is escalating around the world and here at home, and it has become all too common to see swastikas worn, glorified, and used to spread hatred and division. Only through education can we continue to ensure that our community understands the historical significance of this symbol and its intended message and targets.

Please join us in denouncing antisemitism and speaking out whenever a swastika is used. We cannot stand by and let this hateful symbol become normalized. To learn more about the history of antisemitism and historic symbols, please explore our Tool Kit for Confronting Antisemitism.

– Mary Pat Higgins, President and CEO
– Mark Zilbermann, Board Chair

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