An old anchor near a maritime museum east of Montreal displays a swastika. Many locals and others thought the anchor was a WW2 German relic due to the swastika which was also often mistaken for the hated Nazi ’hakenkreuz’.

An old anchor near a maritime museum west of Montreal displays a controversial swastika. Many locals and others thought the anchor was a WW2 German relic due to the swastika which was also often mistaken for the hated Nazi ’hakenkreuz’. That 'mistake' was not helped when the city repainted the anchor recently highlighting the image in black with a white circle behind it.
Photo Credit: Corey Fleischer Facebook

Misplaced outrage over swastika

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It’s not Nazi, it’s not even German

An old ship’s anchor mounted in a park in a Quebec town just west of the island of Montreal, has caused a bit of a kerfuffle. The anchor bears an embossed swastika on one of it’s flukes.

Although the anchor has been there for many years, recently someone complained to a Montreal man known for removing hate symbols. Corey Fleischer runs a power washing company but also has a personal pro-bono campaign to erase racist and other hate graffiti spray painted on buildings around the city.

When informed of the swastika, he went to the community of Pointes-des-Cascades in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the Parc des Ancres (anchor park) where the old anchor sits near a museum dedicated to the maritime history of the St Lawrence and nearby Soulanges Canal.

The city had painted the swastika black with a white circle behind it to highlight it, and Fleischer tried to erase it.

However, although the paint came off, the symbol as part of the original casting, remained.  Because of that, Fleischer painted a black circle around it to block it out.

Corey Fleischer of *Erasing Hate* speaking with a police officer abour his effort to block out the swastika symbol
Corey Fleischer of *Erasing Hate* speaking with a police officer abour his effort to block out the swastika symbol © Corey Fleischer Facebook

Meanwhile, the local mayor saw him and told him to stop, while calling police for what he saw as vandalism. Fleischer and others say the mayor is wrong to have stopped him, and that Nazi symbols have no place in society, adding he’d be back if the city repainted it.

Wrong history

Many people in the community and elsewhere mistakenly believe this and other similar old anchors are German and of Second World War origin.  Many media reports of this latest incident also mistakenly identify the anchor as a German war relic.

The controversy over the anchor and its swastika was not helped by a nearby plaque mistakenly identifying it as from the *Hitler era* and a symbol of Nazism. The mayor told journalist Lavoie that now that its pre-war British origin is known, the plaque will be changed.
The controversy over the anchor and its swastika was not helped by a nearby plaque mistakenly identifying it as from the *Hitler era* and a symbol of Nazism. The mayor says that now that its pre-war British origin is known, the plaque will be changed. © Hugo Lavoie / Radio-Camada

In fact it is British and predates the war.

In the late 1800’s and into the twentieth century W.L.Byers of Sunderland, England was a supplier of large ship anchors and chains.

A Byers Company product catalogue book showing the swastika logo of the company. It hightlights a number of large warships and steamers that use Byers anchors.
A Byers Company product catalogue book showing the swastika logo of the company. It hightlights a number of large warships and steamers that use Byers anchors. © Ricahrd Lovegrove via searlecanada.org

He was apparently fascinated by the swastika, as were a great many people and organisations of the time, by this symbol found on pottery unearthed by archaeologists at Troy and which is believed to be an ancient sign both there and in India for good luck and auspiciousness,

Another example of an old Byers anchor, this one on display showing the swastika. This is at Wilson Memorial Park in Courtright near Sarnia Ontario.
Another example of an old Byers anchor, this one on display showing the swastika. This is at Wilson Memorial Park in Courtright near Sarnia Ontario. © Kevin Miller via searlecanada.org

Byers made the symbol the logo for his company and had it cast into the anchor flukes of his popular stockless anchors well into the twentieth century, prior to the Nazi use and slight variation of their now universally despised “hakenkreuz”.

Another Byers ancor showing the swastika symbol on the fluke, This one displayed in Collingwood Ontario
Another Byers ancor showing the swastika symbol on the fluke, This one displayed in Collingwood Ontario © Mike Walker via searlecanada.org

Byers anchors were purchased for a great many large ships, both military and cargo, built and sailed around the world.  The company stopped using the logo when the Nazi party adopted their variation in 1920.

Many parks in locations around the world now have old Byers anchors on display which include the swastika.

Here is another Byers anchor displayed at the *Museo Maritimo de Montevideo* showing swastikas cast into both flukes.
Here is another Byers anchor displayed in Uruguay at the *Museo Maritimo de Montevideo* showing swastikas cast into both flukes. © via ottawarewind.com

It is not clear what further action may be taken in the case of the Vaudreuil park anchor, which is not German, and the former company logo which is no way connected with the Nazi variation.

Corey Fleischer  when contacted by a Radio-Canada reporter Hugo Lavoie, said that the fact that the swastika and anchor are not German and not Nazi, is irrelevant. The journalist was also told by the local mayor that since the story became widely reported he and the town have been inundated with hateful mail and phone calls from people who are also unaware of the real story.

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2 comments on “Misplaced outrage over swastika
  1. Avatar james ginn says:

    The swastika points to the right. The manji points to the left.

  2. Avatar Hugh Logie says:

    As usual, a well-writen and well-informed article. Thank you, Marc and company; I learned something new today. Hitler’s use of the modified swastika might well be the best-known example of cultural appropriation in history.