An Associated Press story last Friday reported that a group of female students at a private school in Kansas City had been disciplined for posing with a swastika made from red plastic cups. It happened at an underage beer-drinking party.

The students attend St. Teresa’s Academy. The party was not on school grounds and it was after school hours. The school did not say what the students’ punishment was. They were not expelled. Police were asked to investigate because of the underage drinking.

Flags with the swastika have been observed (on television) at rallies in which white supremacists participated, along with other hate groups.

The thought came as rapidly as a speeding bullet: Do young people, and some adults, understand today what a swastika stands for?

It is a symbol of hate. Germany’s Adolph Hitler designed a Nazi flag with the swastika on it. For the generation that grew up in the 1930s and fought against Germany in the 1940s, it is an evil symbol. Thousands of Americans gave their lives in fighting Germany in World War II.

The word swastika means “good fortune” or “well-being.” The symbol was around at least 5,000 years before Hitler adopted it.

It is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is on temples and houses in some countries. The swastika is found in some forms of art.

In Germany it was the favorite of people who were promoting racial purity, “Aryan identity,” and it became the symbol of national pride. It was the symbol in Germany of the idea of a racially “pure” state. The Nazis plastered the swastika everywhere.

When America entered the war against Germany in late 1941, the swastika in the United States became a hated symbol. It represented all that was evil in Germany under Hitler. Flags with the swastika became collection items for our troops fighting in Europe. Many were sent home to relatives. We remember seeing them.

The Germans today are ashamed of the era when Nazis ruled their country, waged war and killed millions of people. Visitors from our Sister City have remarked about all the American flags that are displayed. To them, flags remind them of the Nazi party rule. They are a symbol of nationalism, which they fear because of what happened under Hitler.

There are neo-Nazi groups today, scattered around the world, even in Germany. They are small in numbers. They display the swastika flags.

Young people who in some manner display a swastika today probably don’t have a clue as to what it once stood for, especially to those of us who grew up during World War II. To us it is a reminder of Hitler, Germany and World War II. If ever there was a symbol of evil, it now is the swastika.