Question: Should hidden swastikas uncovered recently on pipe valves in the basement of the Capitol be a concern?
It wasn't what a worker expected to encounter while unwrapping long-concealed pipes and valves in the basement on the Capitol's heating, ventilation and air conditioning project.
But on some of those pipes and valves that were either being replaced or cleaned out and reinstalled, workers found marks that looked like swastikas, like Nazi symbols. Many of them are hidden inside concrete, or hidden by insulation.
And workers questioned whether the symbols that are on those pipes and valves should be replaced as they are uncovered in the area, not just cleaned out and reinstalled.
The swastika was used as a symbol of well-being in ancient societies, including those in India, China, Africa, America and Europe, for at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler made it the centerpiece of the Nazi flag, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means good fortune or well-being. Its use may stretch back as far as 7,000 years.
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A communication spokeswoman on behalf of Crane Co. said that from approximately 1910 through 1936, the symbol appeared as a foundry mark on certain cast steel products from Crane Co.’s Chicago foundry.
"The symbol has a long history of benign use by many cultures over centuries," said Molly Morse of Kekst CNC. "Crane likely selected it because, at the time, it was understood to indicate good luck and good fortune. The symbol became associated with hatred during World War II, by which time Crane had stopped using it."
Capitol administrator Bob Ripley said he learned years ago the symbol was a common Victorian one used in jewelry to indicate friendship, and also used by other cultures.
The Capitol was completed and in use before the Nazis came to power and appropriated the symbol, Ripley said. He doesn't feel a need to go back and revise history by saying they must now be removed from those original pieces of equipment in the building.
If a valve with the symbol is cleaned out and rewrapped with insulation, it will be hidden away from view, he said. They would cost thousands of dollars each to replace, he said.
Still one worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it was somewhat shocking to come across the symbols, even if they predated Nazi motifs. It's a highly charged environment Americans live in now, that includes racism and white nationalism, and people are sensitive about such things.