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Can you find the swastikas in the picture?

Walgreens announced Monday that is removing all rolls of wrapping paper from its shelves nationwide after a woman from the Northridge community of Los Angeles complained Sunday about the swastikas in the design.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had no idea what to do,” Cheryl Shapiro, the distressed shopper told L.A.’s NBC News affiliate. “I came home and spoke to my rabbi. He couldn’t believe it.”

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Shapiro’s experience brings up a larger issue: How close to a swastika should something look to be considered offensive?

The wrapping paper is only the latest in a series of swastika products spotted on the market in recent years. In October, Sears apologized profusely for selling a ring with a swastika on it in its “men’s punk rock style” jewelry collection. In 2013, a clothing line called “Spiritual Punx” began putting colorful swastikas, which might also be seen as donuts, on clothing, stickers and accessories.

In 2007, Zara was caught selling a handbag that featured four green swastikas next to an array of flowers.

The swastika dates back thousands of years, well before Hitler’s rise to power. Before the late 19th century, the symbol was primarily associated with the cultures of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, in which it represented good luck or well-being. By the start of the 20th century, the swastika could be seen throughout Europe, not just in Germany. Today it is still seen on temples in places like India and Indonesia.

In any modern Western context, the swastika is inextricably associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

However, is the geometry of the Walgreens wrapping paper in the same category as the Sears “punk rock” ring? After all, the hooked cross, while iconic, is a simple enough design to accidentally replicate if one is drawing enough lines and right angles.

Presumably, Walgreen’s now will be extra careful in scrutinizing its products to assure they do not offend.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Designers should be conscious enough to see it when they're doodling around. It may be easy to inadvertently replicate when using right-angles (like brick laying), but it's got such ugly connotations tied to it that you'd expect designers to go out of their way to avoid it.

  2. Obvious…this is no accident. Before anything is put on a retail shelf a buyer has to get it approved and a merchandiser has get his or her layout or display plan approved. So there are many hands that touch a product before we ever see it.

  3. A swastika used after ww2,is a Swastika in its worst sense. Hitler used it as a symbol to hate and kill Jews and and anyone he chose. It is now a symbol of death and hatred . Once it was a symbol for luck but that was long before Hitler. No decent person would use it for any reason.

  4. [Surak] You saw a Buddhist religious symbol which was adopted from an ancient Hindu religious symbol. Nothing to do with Nazis. It's been around for thousands of years. One MO rabbi we know said that he was told that Asian packaged food bearing this symbol is reliably vegan, because it has a religious connotation for practicing Hindus and Buddhists, who would refuse to eat any product with animal origins.

  5. [Surak] This is stupid, an embarrassment to the extreme. We have real problems to worry about, starting with 0bama. These decorative designs have been around for thousands of years across continents. There are no free-floating swastikas here. Please, this woman, her rabbi and some of the commenters need to get a grip and a life. It's not a swastika! You're imagining things!

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