The answer to this question largely depends on the intended use of the swastika symbol. As a matter of public law, the post-war German law codes prohibit the display of a swastika in any form or fashion, even if used satirically or as part of an anti-Nazi political statement. This law is generally applied to the specific five-by-five grid swastika design used during the Nazi era, however. Several religious organizations have petitioned the German government for permission to display other forms of the symbol.
Historically, the swastika symbol denotes general peace and world harmony, not the violence and genocide associated with the Nazi movement. The word swastika is derived from a Sanskrit word that describes any form of good luck charm. Several other German political and social organizations had already incorporated swastikas into their banners or flags before the rise of the National Socialist or Nazi party. While Adolph Hitler was in prison for a failed coup attempt, he conceived the idea of a National Socialist Party flag bearing a large black swastika in the center.
Hitler's choice of the swastika was partially based on his strong belief in the Aryan or master race theory. The original Aryans lived in India and were considered to be among the first Caucasian or white invaders of the Eastern world. Hitler believed that the swastika would remind the blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan descendants in Europe of their rightful place as superiors. The complete annihilation of the inferior Jewish race would guarantee purity in the future bloodlines of a world dominated by Socialist ideals.
After the fall of the Nazi regime, many Germans felt their new government should take steps to distance itself from that tragic and costly time in German history. Along with banning the publication or ownership of Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf, the West German government made any display or use of the Nazi swastika illegal. This law continues to be tested today, with various neo-Nazi organizations routinely displaying the outlawed Nazi flag during demonstrations. Even consumer products such as t-shirts and bumper stickers can be confiscated if they contain any depiction of a swastika.
Some Germans equate the display of the swastika to the display of the Confederate flag in the United States. Both symbols represent dark periods in each country's history, but the government's attempt to outlaw their display could be construed as whitewashing – an effort to downplay the significance of the event itself. While most modern Germans bristle at the thought of the Holocaust or Hitler's reign of terror, some believe the display of the swastika symbol should not be completely outlawed. Oftentimes, the acknowledgement of a symbol of evil can be the key to diminishing its significance.