After request, theater covers swastika on poster

NASHUA – A theater company has covered the swastika on a promotional poster displayed outside a city-owned building.

On Friday, the blank side of a postcard had been taped over the Nazi symbol.

Earlier this week, Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom, who had relatives killed in the Holocaust, expressed outrage over the symbol’s display on city property and in plain view of passing drivers.

The poster promoting the play “Taking Sides” by Yellow Taxi Productions had been displayed outside the Hunt Building. The Nazi symbol was visible to cars traveling north on Main Street up Library Hill. The symbol was on a curtain next to the silhouette of an orchestra conductor.

However, on Friday, a reader of The Telegraph pointed out that two swastikas are visible on a poster promoting a one-man show Sunday at the Janice B. Streeter Theatre at 14 Court St.

The poster for “Notes to the Motherland” shows the silhouette of a girl riding a bicycle. Swastikas form the spokes of each wheel.

“I am not writing to defend or condemn the organization’s use of the swastika symbol,” the reader wrote in an e-mail. “I do, however, wish to point out a very similar advertisement currently being used on the Nashua Public Library Web site’s front page. If one advertisement with a swastika on it is derided shouldn’t both be treated equally?”

In short, the answer is “no,” as far as Teeboom is concerned.

As offensive as he finds the symbol, Teeboom said he doesn’t want to ban all use of swastikas in the city.

“I’m not a fanatic,” Teeboom said.But he draws a distinction between displaying a swastika on the outside of a public building and displaying one inside a public building or on a Web site.

Teeboom said he objected to the Hunt Building poster because the symbol was large enough to be seen by passing cars while the lettering was too small to make it clear the advertisement was for a play.

“My immediate reaction was, I thought there was a Nazi Party gathering in the Hunt Building,” he said.

Matthew Cahoon, president of Yellow Taxi Production’s board of trustees, said the organization had received a call from Teeboom earlier this week. The decision to cover the swastika was ultimately made in response to a letter from Rabbi Jon Spira-Savett of the Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, he said.

Cahoon said Spira-Savett expressed his concern over people being offended by the display of the symbol who may not know why it is there.

Had the lettering been large enough to make it clear from the street that this was promoting a play, Teeboom said that wouldn’t have been as bad.

But he still objects to displaying the symbol on the outside of a government building, and he finds it offensive that the symbol was used with the apparent intent of selling tickets, Teeboom said.

On the other hand, Teeboom said he understands that a swastika could be displayed inside a government building – as part of an exhibit about the Holocaust or World War II, for example.

For that reason, he isn’t objecting to the Nashua Public Library using the symbol on its Web site to promote the one-man show.

Neither “Taking Sides” nor “Notes to the Motherland” promotes the Nazi Party. Instead, each examines issues related to the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Europe.

The Yellow Taxi play, based on a true story, takes place in 1946 and focuses on the investigation of composer Wilhelm Furtwangler after Americans have entered Germany.

After Hitler’s rise to power, Furtwangler stayed in Germany when many other artists fled the country. The central theme of the play is whether Furtwangler was a Nazi, and thus a war criminal, or stayed for his love of music.

“Taking Sides” begins its run Sept. 19 and goes until Sept. 27 at the Hunt Building. There is also a roundtable discussion planned for the night of Sept. 20.

“Notes to the Motherland” is a one-man show performed by actor Paul Rajeckas who co-wrote the play with George L. Chieffet. It’s sponsored by the library’s Zylonis fund created to promote the Lithuanian community.

The show is about a Lithuanian-American who traces his roots back to World War II when Nazis occupied Lithuania. He discovers that some members of his family supported the Nazis, while other members were sympathetic to Jews.

The show is free and runs 2 p.m. Sunday at the Janice B. Streeter Theatre at 14 Court St.