gratuitous image
6 June 1996

Swastikas in the Attic

When I was in Frankfurt I joined a friend in exploring an Asian import store across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. In the dimly-lit upper floor, I saw an old piece of fabric on display with a familiar pattern. A Buddhist may have seen resignation, a Jain may have interpreted it as the sign of the seventh saint, a Hindu may have read what I saw as night, magic, and Kali. As a visitor to Germany, though, I can't look at a swastika without seeing Nazis.

It's confusing traveling through Germany. I ride around with lovely German friends in a Volkswagen with a Leica bouncing on a stomach full of German beer and sauerkraut, but still I keep thinking about a war that ended over a decade before I was born. It's one of those rare occasions when my emotional self dominates my rational self. I suppose the equally absurd equivalent would be a German wandering around Manhattan in a baseball cap and wondering what the cowboys and Indians may have done there.

I'd guess there are more Nazis in the United States than in Germany, but it's hard to see the present for the long shadows from the past.

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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart