A sunny day turned dark when a plane pulling a swastika banner flew over Coney Island and Brighton Beach on July 12.
“It sucked the sun out of the sky,” said Pat Singer, the president of the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association.
The organization that funded the banner — a UFO-worshipping group called the ProSwastika Alliance — says it wants to “reclaim” the hated symbol from the Nazis and promote it’s ancient meaning in Eastern religions, which originally associated the swastika with well-being.
But Brighton Beach residents were skeptical that the best way to do that was to fly the banner — which also featured a swastika in the center of a Star of David — over a neighborhood with a large Jewish population.
“That sign will always be scary and negative and as a Jew, it gave me goose bumps,” said Singer.
The bizarre banner bore a swastika, a peace symbol, and a heart, arranged with mathematical symbols to imply that the Nazi symbol, plus peace, equals love — but Singer wasn’t convinced.
“My sister and I did a double-take,” said Singer. “All of a sudden, we felt the hate.”
Brighton Beach is famously known as “Little Odessa” because of the large influx of Russian immigrants — many of whom were Jews fleeing persecution in the old Soviet Union. Many residents’ lost family members in the Holocaust.
“It must have been a knife going through their hearts,” Nikola Faverman, whose great-grandfather died in a Nazi death camp, said of the banner she saw circle Coney Island several times.
The local councilman was furious that the group chose to fly the banner over his district.
“I am outraged that a plane was flown, this past weekend, over our community’s beaches with the hateful Swastika symbol. This image is so horrendous that no matter what their ultimate point was, it’s absolutely unacceptable” said Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay). “My community, in particular, has many Holocaust survivors. This symbol of hate reminds people of the horrors of the darkest days of the Holocaust. This type of act should not be permitted.”
The pro-swastika organization — part of a religious group called the Raelians that teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by extraterrestrials — defended its campaign to take the symbol back from the Nazis.
“We’re not here to offend but to educate,” said Thomas Kaenzig, president of the ProSwastika Alliance. “By linking the swastika only with Nazism, we only give credit to Hitler and his monstrosities. I’m sure that’s the last thing people who have suffered through the Holocaust would want.”
Before it was appropriated by Hitler’s Nazi Party in 1920, the swastika had been a positive symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism for thousands of years. The name comes from the Sanskrit “svastika,” which translates as “wellbeing.” The symbol also appears in Native American art.
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