The Amazon Prime series “The Man in the High Castle” had a rocky start when it came to Nazi imagery.
In 2015, the show, set in an alternate universe in which the Axis won World War II and split the United States between Japanese and German control, was the subject of early outrage. The cause was an ad campaign that involved decking out New York City’s Times Square shuttles with images of a modified version of the Nazi Iron Cross. The ads were pulled after mass objections.
But now that the four-season show has released its final episodes, Amazon appears to have learned its lesson. In a viral tweet, actress Chelah Horsdal, who plays Helen Smith, wife — and later betrayer — of an American SS officer, showed the exhaustive process by which the crew is destroying swastikas used on the series.
Reminder that High Castle proudly destroyed all the swastikas that were produced for the show. pic.twitter.com/ecW445OWhB— Chelah Horsdal (@chelahhorsdal) November 16, 2019
It looks like hard work, with a person carefully cutting the insignias into scraps before placing their remains in plastic bins identified as the “Burn pile.”
In a later tweet, Horsdal confirmed that it wasn’t just Nazi icons that the props department scrapped. The WWII-era Japanese symbol of the rising sun, used as the war flag of Imperial Japan, is a regular sight in the series. Props bearing it are also marked for post-production destruction.
“All flags and symbols that were in any way offensive or sensitive: destroyed,” Horsdal wrote.
Swastikas continue to be a favorite symbol for neo-Nazi groups. In Germany, the symbol is outlawed and media that uses it is often censored. “The Man in the High Castle” and another alternate history favorite, “Inglourious Basterds,” are free from this restriction, as they fall within the educational, art and commentary parameters of acceptable use.
Twitter being Twitter, Horsdal confronted some backlash to her tweet. Some questioned why the symbols might not be repurposed for future productions or if the burning was environmentally friendly. “Wow,” Horsdal tweeted. “Lotta a**holes out there. Who knew the position ‘Nazi swastikas are bad’ would be so controversial.”
Still, a few noted that the show’s careful swastika disposal was too little too late, given the early gaffe of the Times Square Shuttle Affair.
“Yeah, but they sure had no problem blazing them all over the New York subway system,” wrote Twitter user Alex Singer. “Not like that’s a place with a large population of Jewish people with grandparents who got driven out of Europe by Nazis or anything.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org