The Star and the Swastika


Symbols are decorative propaganda. Artful designs that entangle minds, the colorful symbols, flags and insignias of nation-states conceal a broad swath of crimes. Some flags mimic the double cross of pirate lore or the pagan pentagram, while others weave from humble beginnings into an entire tapestry of sinister patterns and officially sanctioned felonies.

Consider Israel. When did the Star of David begin to tilt toward that banner of infamy, the Nazi swastika? Indeed, when did the Nazi swastika supplant the ancient good luck symbol, and why is this simple essay akin to treason or charges of anti-Semitism to many readers? Certainly, forcing families of impoverished Palestinians into internment camps may not equate with the liquidation of the Jews at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but how close must the similarities be before people see the parallels? And when does heroic resistance become terrorism, or when does an uprising become an act of cultural survival?

You don't have to be German to get in touch with your inner Nazi. Fascism makes minor Hitlers of us all, whether Gentile or Jew, Muslim or atheist. Extremism and a mean streak are the only qualifications. There's not a nickel's worth of difference between the ideology of Ariel Sharon and Hermann Goering, and the people who defend the philosophy of either war criminal wear the same armband.

The rabid Zionist and their Christian collaborators share the same ethos as a holocaust denier: blind to the facts and bull-headed to the truth. Fascism requires a forceful defense of an equation which reason always rendered indefensible and criminal, a strident nationalism or perverse prejudice. Aside from Uri Avnery, who speaks out against this swastification of the Star of David? And are we Americans any better, especially US Senators and Representatives, ideologues who actively support, or keep silent to the oppression in the Holy Land? The swastification of the Stars and Stripes is a series of steps downward in support of tyranny. An ideologue is a terrorist who instructs others to drive the truck bombs and bulldozers.

Consider for a moment the Holy Land, the land of sorrows. Sacred to three major religions, all presently engaged in war with each other. Consider the mass of Americans, Arabs and Israelis--decent folks mostly--yoked together and held hostage by war criminals, as were the Germans of the Third Reich. All our flags merge into the red, white and black bunting of fascism.

A few months ago, I rented the old war movie Twelve O'Clock High, an excellent film about an American WW II bomber squadron based in England. Sixty years ago, my father served at a similar base in rural England, but his reticence in later years made filling in this historical record nearly impossible. Assigned to Ordnance as a US Army Captain, James Adam Herman supervised the loading of bombs bound for Germany on American B-17 Flying Fortresses. Through the years I've often wondered how many Hermans--our distant German relatives--were killed by those falling bombs. I also wondered whether those bombs hastened the liberation of concentration camps. I felt a peculiar ambivalence when I thought of those Hermans who may have been killed by bombs falling on Hamburg, Dresden, or in the final holocaust of Berlin. The Third Reich lasted 12 years, and in that time my true brethren--artists, writers, reporters and dissidents, Jews and Catholics and Protestants like Niem'ller--were killed or imprisoned while resisting the Nazi regime. Thinking about all those who opposed the state, I felt no sorrow for any Herman if a bomb tore them apart while they wore the Nazi armband. You see, I save my compassion for those who stand opposed to the totalitarian state--like those outnumbered Israeli refuseniks--and shed no tears for collaborators and accomplices to felonious crimes, even if they might have been related by blood.

While we consider the irony of the star and the swastika in proximity, let us remember the equal irony that both the Russians and the Americans affixed a star to the armor of their tanks as they waged war together against the Nazi swastika. Truly the forces of fascism, like those of freedom, fly many flags and no symbol is exempt. The former good luck symbol--the swastika--became aligned with the forces of darkness, and the Red Star of a courageous former ally became the odious symbol of the Evil Empire. If a respected American President could openly chastise a former ally in the war against totalitarianism--as President Reagan did the USSR--where is the moral fiber today to openly chastise our ally Israel in a similar fashion? Russia lost 20 million in that war against the Nazis, a million in a single battle, saving the lives of perhaps a quarter million American soldiers. How many Americans will die in the Middle Eastern morass because we prefer stubbornness and hypocrisy to peaceful reconciliation?

While the trio of religions make the Holy Land a hell of a place to live by cruel and inhuman dictates, how ironic that holocaust survivors and Russian Jews, victims of Nazi and Soviet barbarism, do not glimpse their own former condition in the fate of the Palestinians. Those Jewish cultural descendents of the heroic defenders behind the walled ghetto of Warsaw fail to see or criticize the walls, barricades, fences, and oppression replicating like a virus in the occupied lands. Truly, fascism makes minor Hitlers of us all.

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @