Doesn’t Finland have any other cultural symbols it can use?

My post yesterday on the Finnish Veterans’ Association selling swastika-engraved rings to raise money has prompted a number of angry responses. Several readers have e-mailed to point out that the Finnish swastika depicted on the ring is strictly an Air Force symbol. And indeed, it is based on the swastikas painted on an airplane gifted ...

597454_071218_nazi_05.jpg
597454_071218_nazi_05.jpg

My post yesterday on the Finnish Veterans' Association selling swastika-engraved rings to raise money has prompted a number of angry responses. Several readers have e-mailed to point out that the Finnish swastika depicted on the ring is strictly an Air Force symbol. And indeed, it is based on the swastikas painted on an airplane gifted to the Finnish from Swedish Count Eric von Rosen in 1918 for good luck—long before the Nazis adopted theirs.

I don't deny that the Finnish swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol. As I mentioned in my post, Finns argue that it is a traditional cultural symbol. But this does not alter the fact that: a) The Finns fought alongside the Germans in WWII, so it's not a stretch to confuse the symbolism today; b) Unlike the Indian swastika, the Finnish swastika is a distinctly military symbol, another potential source of misunderstanding; c) The swastika's use in the region, even today, has certain clear and unambiguous meanings. Even if the Finnish swastika predated the Nazis', let's be honest with ourselves here: After everything that happened during WWII, any such representation of it is highly likely to provoke Nazi associations. Surely the Veterans' Association would have considered its historical resonance before deciding to sell the rings as Christmas gifts. Admittedly, we may have been too loose with our title "Finnish charity selling Nazi rings," but for many people, that's exactly what it represents.

My post yesterday on the Finnish Veterans’ Association selling swastika-engraved rings to raise money has prompted a number of angry responses. Several readers have e-mailed to point out that the Finnish swastika depicted on the ring is strictly an Air Force symbol. And indeed, it is based on the swastikas painted on an airplane gifted to the Finnish from Swedish Count Eric von Rosen in 1918 for good luck—long before the Nazis adopted theirs.

I don’t deny that the Finnish swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol. As I mentioned in my post, Finns argue that it is a traditional cultural symbol. But this does not alter the fact that: a) The Finns fought alongside the Germans in WWII, so it’s not a stretch to confuse the symbolism today; b) Unlike the Indian swastika, the Finnish swastika is a distinctly military symbol, another potential source of misunderstanding; c) The swastika’s use in the region, even today, has certain clear and unambiguous meanings. Even if the Finnish swastika predated the Nazis’, let’s be honest with ourselves here: After everything that happened during WWII, any such representation of it is highly likely to provoke Nazi associations. Surely the Veterans’ Association would have considered its historical resonance before deciding to sell the rings as Christmas gifts. Admittedly, we may have been too loose with our title “Finnish charity selling Nazi rings,” but for many people, that’s exactly what it represents.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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