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Swastika is a Sanskrit word meaning “that which brings good luck and well-being.” It is a sacred symbol that is deeply revered by over 2 billion people globally belonging to the Dharmic traditions (Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs) that originated in India. It has been in continuous use for over 10,000 years. 

Hakenkreuz is a German word, which translates in English to “Hooked Cross”. It has a similar shape as the Swastika but with a different history and symbolism. Hakenkreuz is one of the earliest symbols of Christianity, even predating the Holy cross. 

Hitler referred to the Nazi symbol as the Hakenkreuz. To the Jewish people, this Nazi symbol represents the most genocidal evil; one which was responsible for the extermination of over six million Jews, one and half million Roma and others. This symbol brings fear, trauma and pain in the hearts and minds of these communities even today.

Unfortunately, the Western world, particularly many in the English-speaking countries, do refer to the Nazi symbol as Swastika. This is incorrect as Hitler and the Nazis NEVER referred to their symbol as the Swastika. They called it Hakenkreuz.

This happened gradually since the 1930s due to inaccurate English translations of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, irresponsible media reporting, including by the New York Times and inaccurate dialogues in Hollywood movies. To know more about the sequence of events, read Rev. TK Nakagaki san’s book The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate, CoHNA’s article Wrongfully Accused: The Swastika Is Not Hitler’s Hakenkreuz and watch this 2022 documentary created by AKTK in collaboration with CoHNA.

For one, it is a mistranslation! 

Yes, the two symbols do look similar. So do the Holy Cross and the Burning Cross. But the contexts in which they are used are diametrically opposite. Swastika is used to propagate good-will and auspiciousness while Hakenkreuz is used to propagate hate. 

For the communities that consider Swastika sacred and use it in their festivals and religious traditions, it is traumatic to see Swastika referred to as a hate symbol. It has led to self-censorship by these communities and infringes on their religious freedoms.

That will replace one mistranslation with another because the bottomline is that the Nazis never used Swastika for their symbol. 

“Nazi Swastika” is oxymoronic as it is like saying “Nazi well-being” or “bad well-being.” If at all, “Nazi Cross” would be a more appropriate translation.