A Doncaster man who flew a Nazi swastika flag outside his house has apologised - after saying he didn’t realise the symbol’s significance.
Flag collector and enthusiast Martin Baker sparked outrage on social media after hoisting aloft the red and black Waffen SS flag outside his Barnby Dun home on Friday night.
But he has now apologised for the move after telling the Free Press that he didn’t understand what the flag represented.
He said: “I want to say sorry to everyone who might have been upset by the flag. I didn’t know exactly what the flag means and I still don’t.
“I don’t want to upset anyone so I took it down as soon as people started contacting me explaining about the fuss it was causing.”
Mr Baker has been flying flags outside his home in Station Road for nearly a decade and now has more than 100 in his collection.
He said: “I put it up on Friday night and it was taken down on Saturday morning. I normally keep them up for a few weeks but the phone started ringing and people were telling me about the anger it was causing on Facebook.
“I want to put the record straight. There was no motive behind it, it was purely down to my ignorance as to what it represented then and what it represents now. I am still not sure what the flag means.
“I Googled it and realised I had dropped a massive blunder. I just want to apologise for any upset I might have caused.”
Mr Baker, 54, began his flag fascination in 2008 when he realised a long-held dream to erect a flagpole outside his home when a nearby garage was disposing of its flagpoles.
The Leeds United season ticket holder initially used the flagpole to fly a flag proclaiming his support for the West Yorkshire football club but since then he has displayed a wide variety of flags representing different countries and causes including military and country flags.
In an interview with the Free Press in 2012, Mr Baker and wife Sharon said none of the flags they had flown had ever landed them in hot water, adding: “I’ll never have another football club other than Leeds. People have joked that when we go away on holiday they’ll come round and put a Chelsea, Manchester United or Doncaster Rovers flag up - but it hasn’t happened - yet.”
He added: “I am not part of any right wing group, I’m not a fascist, it is nothing like that at all. It is all down to me being ignorant and I can’t apologise enough. I took it down straight away.”
Mr Baker says he bought the flag on the internet and would now be getting rid of it from his collection.
“I normally fly flags on a two week cycle but I am not putting any more up for a while. The next one I put up will say ‘love, peace and happiness on it. I will be more careful next time.”
WHO WERE THE WAFFEN SS?
The Waffen-SS was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel and gradually developed into a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of Nazi Germany before World War Two
Initially membership was only open to people of Germanic “Aryan” origin, who were said to be the Herrenvolk (master race), according to Nazi racial ideology.
The rules were partially relaxed in 1940, although groups considered by Nazis to be “sub-human” like ethnic Poles or Jews remained excluded.
At the post-war Nuremberg Trials the Waffen-SS was condemned as a criminal organization due to its connection to the Nazi Party and involvement in numerous war crimes.
The swastika is considered to be a very sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
But it has become stigmatized in Western Culture following its use by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany.
Because of its use by Nazi Germany, the swastika since the 1930s has been largely associated with Nazism and white supremacy in most Western countries. As a result, all of its use, or its use as a Nazi or hate symbol is prohibited in some countries, including Germany. Because of the stigma attached to the symbol, many buildings that have contained the symbol as decoration have had the symbol removed.