Dr. Natasha Goldman sheds light on the Nazi swastika’s history



Dr. Natasha Goldman presented to around 90 students and staff on Thursday, April 14, educating on the history of the swastika and the hate it has come to represent.

Dr. Natasha Goldman gave a presentation titled “Nazi Swastika 101” at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 14.

Goldman, who has a Ph.D. in art history and teaches at Bowdoin College, spoke about the history of the hateful symbol in light of the several swastika discoveries at the high school this school year.

Around 90 students and staff gathered in the MLK room to listen to Goldman’s presentation. She explained the long history of the swastika and its use as a benevolent and peaceful symbol in Hindu and Buddhist religions, among others, for thousands of years. She said it is important to recognize the distinction between the traditional swastika symbol of good fortune and the symbol of hate that Adolf Hitler appropriated it for.

Goldman walked the audience through the swastika’s story, explaining that Hitler adopted it to draw a connection between Germans and Ancient Greeks to help him establish the idea of a pure race.

In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler clearly states that the swastika represents hatred towards Jewish people, according to Goldman.

“You cannot divorce the Nazi swastika from antisemitism. You can’t. It’s in the definition that Hitler himself gave it,” Goldman said.

To Goldman, the Nazi swastika is a reminder of the atrocities of the Holocaust: the mass murdering of European Jews and other marginalized groups during Hitler’s attempt to establish the superiority of his Aryan race.

According to Goldman, the Nazi swastika has a heavy history associated with it and is still used to promote antisemitism today. After establishing that the symbol is harmful and painful and showing a variety of artwork to guide student understanding, Goldman asked the audience to consider why some people might be drawing it on the walls and tables of the high school.

“Who these people are and what their motivations are, we do not know,” Goldman said. “The effect that it has on the viewer is what matters.”

Goldman said she believes strongly in restorative justice, the process of talking to someone who hurt others and trying to educate them on why their actions had the impact they did.

“Just because someone engages in this doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. They might need some education, they might need to be listened to,” Goldman said.

This presentation was one part of the high school’s attempt to bring more awareness to the meaning behind the hateful use of a Nazi swastika and spark more conversations on the topic.

Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator and faculty adviser to the Jewish Student Union Gary Shiffman said he has spent a lot of time questioning the motivations behind people drawing swastikas in school.

“It could be hardcore, inveterate racists. But they’re probably just dumb, they don’t know, they’re trying to get a reaction. The right reaction to that is, ‘here’s what it means,’” Shiffman said. “We want people to understand this stuff is still alive and it’s very painful. This is a start.”

According to Goldman, the high school could improve by integrating Holocaust learning into more aspects of students’ education.

“It’s just amazing to me that young people don’t know what the Holocaust is,” Goldman said. “How is it possible to live in the world today and not understand that epitome of evil?”

Goldman said she hopes that students leave the presentation with new language to use in confrontations with antisemitism.

“To give people those words I think is really important. Sometimes we just have to go back to the basics,” Goldman said.

Many students asked Goldman questions at the end of the presentation. One spoke about feeling some immunity to hearing about the discovery of a new swastika because the issue is so recurring. Goldman said it is important to remember the historical significance of the symbol and how people in the past were affected.

“If I’m 17 in Germany and a Jew,” Goldman said in response to the student, “Put yourself in those shoes and then, is it possible to normalize it?”

Leader of the Jewish Student Union, junior Tomer Schubert, said Goldman’s talk was a “preface” to the upcoming Day of Jewish Identity and Fighting Antisemitism.

“I think we had a great turnout. We filled the entire MLK room, which was great,” Schubert said. “[The event] exceeded my expectations.”