The Dilemma of Displaying Swastika Imagery in My Promotional Materials
I use swastikas in my flyers and posters to draw attention to my show and its themes. As a performer, I feel the pressure to do whatever I can to stand out from the crowd and represent my show in one quick glance. The swastika certainly catches people’s attention—and fast. The background of my image is made up of a pattern of Jewish stars, the ones Nazis forced Jews to wear on their clothing. This symbolizes the other half of my heritage. But I still question my choice in using the swastika, as it is such a highly offensive symbol of the Third Reich and the Holocaust.
As for my promotional photograph, I took over a hundred pictures before settling on one that I felt adequately depicted my horror towards the Nazi flag. (Thanks to Dana Dubinsky, my patient and talented photographer.) Only the one image even came close. And I made the flags myself—deliberately as shoddily as possible out of felt, glue, and staples purchased at an arts and crafts chain store. I didn’t want to buy anything that would contribute to an industry that fetishizes Nazis.
Taking the promotional photos in my front room—the only spot with adequate light—across the street from the home of my landlord’s orthodox rabbi was another problem…
For the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’m making buttons (“badges” in the U.K.) to hand out that display the swastika with a “no” symbol over it. To address modern-day racism, I’m also making buttons with the number “88” covered by the international “no” symbol. “88” is a neo-Nazi symbol standing for the eighth letter of the alphabet: “HH” or “Heil Hitler.” Skinheads display them at soccer games. The badge is intended to expose and thus defuse the power of their secret message.
I still struggle with the impact of the swastika on innocent passersby— especially those of Jewish and German descent. And it’s often not possible to leave my flyers at Jewish organizations; the symbol is too triggering an image for their members, especially older ones who saw it in its original horrific context. My own German mother says the sight of it makes her sick. I considered making an alternate version, but decided that would be confusing. If people saw the swastika version elsewhere, they would feel misled.
Ultimately, I justify using the swastika in my promotional materials because it warns viewers that my performance is ironic and edgy and, as they say in theater lingo, it “gets butts in seats.” I tell myself that’s a worthwhile goal because I believe my parents’ story is worth remembering and sharing.