Most of us only experience the horrors of World War II through history books and movies. For example, by watching the scenes of the Normandy invasion in the movie « Saving Private Ryan » or the helplessness of Jewish people in the «Diary of Anne Frank» The atrocities of World War II (1939-1945) are more or less seared in our memories.
Within those horrific six years, the world experienced all the emotions that are possible to be felt – fear, anger, sadness, hope and, finally, happiness. Let’s turn the wheel of time slightly to review the war era through known symbols which describe the Second World War and the victory of the human spirit.
The swastika as a symbol of fear
The swastika means «luck» in Sanskrit and has a 5,000-year history. To this day, it has been accepted by motif Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as a symbol of divinity. In the middle of the nineteenth century, when German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found a hook cross at the site of Troy, the symbol became popular, and since then the symbol was associated with the Aryan race, which was considered «superior» and above other races. In the 1930s, during the rise of the Nazi rule, Hitler adopted swastikas as the symbol of his party. He wrote in his book «Mein Kampf»: «I drew the final shape: the flag on a red background, a white circle (in the center) and a black swastika in the middle of circle».
When Hitler became the dictator of Germany, he decorated every street, house, and even merchandise with swastikas. He intended the whole of Europe to be painted red with a symbol of fear. When Adolf expanded his territory outside Germany, civilians were driven from their homes, many sent to concentration camps and others brutally killed. They made soap out of human skin and made handbags out of women’s hair. Knowing that one day Hitler would come with an army and a swastika, even those who were located a great distance from him feared such a fate.
«Yellow Star» – symbol of horror
The «yellow star», a symbol of the horrors of World War II, was a nightmare for innocent people who wanted nothing besides peace and harmony in their lives. However, if there is only one race whose suffering was unprecedented during the war, it is the Jews. Millions of Jews in Europe were pushed back by the Third Reich to the farthest corners of the continent. A systematic plan to persecute and exterminate the Jewish population started with the adoption of Hitler's decree to wear a "six-pointed yellow star" with the word "Jew" on it. By decree, all Jews over the age of 10 were required to wear a sleeve bond. In Poland, Croatia, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Romania-in all countries where the Nazi flag was raised, the implementation of the rules on the decree were compulsory for Jewish people.
After segregation, they were relocated to ghettos (a very small area reserved for a certain people), and from there to death camps. In concentration camps, the «yellow star» was not filmed until the last breath of the detainees.
The red circle is a symbol of death
By the end of 1944, a wave of war broke out against the Empire of Japan. Their enemy, the United States, was one of the few superpowers the Japanese could not resist. In desperation, the Japanese military formed a suicide squad called «Kamikaze», which included young soldiers, teenagers and young people, who had just enrolled in military training. They were «invited» to join voluntarily to the kamikaze detachment. In October 1944, kamikaze pilots attacked the United States Navy with explosives. Not only were the pilots expected to commit «holy death» for the emperor, but also generals wanted them to destroy enemy military bases. Kamikaze pilots wore white ribbons with red circles in the center and «fulfilled» their mission. Since then, kamikaze pilots became a symbol of death in the Pacific Ocean.
«V» - a symbol of victory
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was the man who led his country to victory in World War II. During the first years of the war, Britain was left alone in Europe with the Third Reich, who was causing destruction all over Europe. This was one of the darkest moments for both civilians and brave soldiers who feared for their freedom and safety. In the mid-1940s, Germany launched the «Sea Lions» operation in the southeast England along the English Channel. In August, the German Luftwaffe bombed Britain to gain an advantage. However, Germany underestimated its enemy, especially its enemy’s determination to fight. The Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses in the battle, which forced Hitler to postpone operation «Sea Lion». Churchill saw in this victory, an opportunity to strengthen the morale of his compatriots. His victory gesture «V» was a source of inspiration for all. Hereinafter, not only in Britain, but across Europe, people were looking for Churchill to free the continent from Hitler.
Origami Crane – a symbol of hope
Whether allies or Nazis, militarists, innocent citizens of every country paid the price for war. People prayed to God, in whom they had faith, to end of this terrible time. Sadako Sasaki was one of those who prayed for hope of survival when she was diagnosed with the incurable disease «leukemia» which had been caused by the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima.
Sadako was two years old when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Many children like Sadako fell ill after the explosion. The doctors had lost hope of curing the children, but the girl was not going to stop fighting for her life. She heard a Japanese legend: if someone makes a thousand origami cranes, their wish will come true. So, she started making origami cranes, hoping her dream would in fact, become a reality. Consequently, before she said goodbye to the world, she managed to make 644 cranes...
For the whole country that heard Sadako’s story after the war, the origami crane became a symbol of hope and peace. In 1958, a statue of the golden crane of Sadako was erected in the Peace Memorial Park of Hiroshima. On its plaque, these words are written: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth! "