Forward Thinking

Reclaiming the Swastika, One Tattoo at a Time

By Cnaan Liphshiz

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

(JTA) — As the sun began to set over Copenhagen, Peter Madsen realized he would not be able to serve the dozens of people still waiting in his shop for a free swastika tattoo.

“We had to stop taking in people after the 54th client,” Madsen, artistic designer at the Meatshop tattoo parlor, said on Tuesday — the day that more than 120 similar businesses worldwide offered free tattoos of the ancient Indian symbol as part of campaign titled “Learn to Love the Swastika.”

For the occasion, the Meatshop announced that anyone who enters the shop on Tuesday would be entitled to a $180 swastika tattoo on the house, on a body part of their choosing.

The idea, Madsen said, is “to reclaim this symbol, which the Nazis abused, and restore it to its original meaning in India, where is has served for thousands of years as a sign of peace and goodness.”

In Russia, Europe and the English-speaking world, swastikas are popular with white supremacists, given the symbol’s association with Nazism. The symbol has been banned in several European countries with limitations on hate speech, though not in Denmark, where a strong liberal tradition has trumped even the bitter memories from the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Still, the Meatshop’s swastika stunt drew emotional reactions from Danish Jews. “I believe that a symbol that was once something else, but which the Nazis took hostage, cannot just be washed clean,” Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation of Copenhagen, told the news site mx.dk. The Meatshop’s attempt to do just that was “cheap,” he added.

“It’s incredibly disappointing. Our country has one of the world’s highest levels of education, yet some think it could be cool to get a swastika. It’s enough to make one worry about the future,” he also said. Bent Lexner, Denmark’s chief rabbi, was similarly unimpressed, saying the idea was in “bad taste.”

Asked to reply, Madsen said: “I accept the legitimacy of this criticism from the Jewish community, which was hit hardest by the Nazis, and resistance fighters, but refuse to let evil keep this symbol.”

Each person who gets a swastika tattoo at the Meatshop, Madsen said, has to sign a waiver form that states that the tattoo they are getting is not a neo-Nazi symbol.

And what if neo-Nazis still use the Meatshop campaign to get a free tattoo of the Furher’s favorite symbol?

“Well, then they may think they are wearing a symbol of racism but that doesn’t change the fact they are actually wearing on their bodies the symbol for a better world,” Madsen answered.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: nazi, jewish, indian, hindu, denmark, swastika, tattoo

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.