It tricky to know what to do when you wake up in the morning in your flat, walk downstairs and find your ground floor neighbour has added a swastika to their front door. I can understand adding a nameplate or perhaps a seasonal wreath but a symbol of Nazi power is a different matter entirely. Of course, it could have been the Indian symbol of peace but, when confronted with a swastika, my first thought is not to think these people mean well. Especially not when it was drawn on the door in blood.
What was worse, being British, I would have just ignored it and hoped it would go away by the time I got home from work. However we had people coming later that day for a second viewing of our flat. The first people to do so in five years. We’d be trying to sell it through the post 2008 recession and had it on the market twice. This was the first couple who’d not dismissed it after one viewing. We could not have them see a swastika as soon as they walked in.
“What’s that?” they’d say while pointing to it.
“Indian symbol of peace?” I’d suggest while they make their excuses and leave.
I needed to do something. But what? I thought of knocking on their door and asking if they would remove the swastika themselves. But then I thought what if it was a genuine Indian symbol of peace. Would this be like asking a Catholic to remove their cross? Perhaps I should check first: I could say, “Is this symbol more ethnic or ethnic cleansing?
And what if they said it was ethnic? Could I then ask them to remove it? I’m not sure I could, it would be culturally insensitive. So, I did what anyone would do in the circumstance. I grabbed a paint pot, a brush and decided to paint their door. Luckily, their door was white and I had white paint as otherwise they would open it and say:
“Can’t wait to see the swastika we created last night! If we just open this door we’ll see – what a minute, where’s the swastika? Where’s my blood? Was it this door we used? Don’t tell me, we got the wrong door. Check the kitchen! And, wait, was our door white?!”
It only takes me a couple of minutes to paint the door. The whole time I’m doing it I’m worried they’ll open the door and I’ll have to explain why they’re interrupting me mid-stroke. A mid-stroke interruption only slightly less embarrassing by your mum catching you mid-horniness.
“What are you doing?” They’d say.
And I then have to explain we had a flat viewer coming and I’ve already said how embarrassing that would be – having to talk to my neighbour. But now I’m doing so while carrying out some guerrilla DIY.
“Just giving the hall a lick of paint,” I’d say, and then I’d have to paint the whole hallway and every door to keep up the pretence that I wasn’t just trying to erase their swastika.
“Also,” I’d add, “it’s because of the symbol.”
“The swastika?” They’d ask, because if you’re going to paint a swastika in blood on your own door then I imagine they’d be pretty up front about it. It’s not the move of someone who’s shy and quiet.
“Yes, the Indian peace symbol,” I’d suggest because I’d want to give them a way out of the conversation.
And they’d say “Heil, Hitler,” while saluting.
And I’d say, “Heil, Hitler,” just to be polite.
Then the two of us would probably paint another swastika because I’d be too afraid to mention the first one again. Except this time they use my blood because they still feel a bit faint from yesterday’s swastika.
That’s the thing about daubing hate graffiti onto porous surfaces, you need a lot of liquid to leave a mark, which is something they don’t teach you in the Hitler Youth camps, it’s all marching and saluting and very little about basic decorating.
Luckily, the door didn’t open and I was able to make it all white while trying not think of the irony of that while erasing a symbol of white power.
If I had been caught, I suspect that my neighbours would have not thought I was a mutual admirer of the Fuhrer. Instead they would probably have thought I was Jewish. Many do. It’s because I have a big nose. Which sounds racist. I’m saying that people think I’m Jewish because I have a big nose. Which suggests I think Jewish people have a big nose. But I’m not the one making the comparison. It’s the people thinking I’m Jewish because of the nose. They’re the racist ones. Especially the Jews.
(I’d better explain that comment quickly!)
I was on holiday before lockdown when a group of Hassidic Jews approached me. We were queuing for a tourist attraction with Asian tourists in masks, a few black families and a number of Hassidic Jews. We thought nothing of them until they came over and said “Shalon, brother!” and then tried to talk to me as if I was part of their tour group. I wasn’t. But my nose made them think I was. Racists!
It wasn’t the first time either, at work, a senior partner would always ask me for directions to the Jewish cemetery or if I knew how to get to various synagogues. Again, I’m not Jewish, but my nose is or at least people think it is – and think I am! – until they catch me with a paint pot in front of a door with a recently daubed swastika.