Monday, June 11, 2012

Swastikas all around the world

As we have studied today, the swastika is a very old symbol the Nazis used as an Arian and anti-semitic emblem. Before the Nazis started using this symbol, swastikas had been used in many places as a symbol of health and good luck, as well as to represent the idea of the eternal return or continuous flow. The oldest known swastikas belong to Prehistory and the Bronze Age. Some Germanic  tribes wore swastika amulets to keep bad spirits away.

Here you have an example of swastikas used to decorate a Greek Kantharos (780 B.C.): 

This is an example of swastikas found in Spain. It´s located in the Roman villa of La Olmeda in Palencia, built in the 4th century

The relation between the swastikas and anti-semitism was established in the 19th century. When many swastikas were discovered in the ruins of ancient Troy in Turkey and also next to the Oder River in Germany, a French philologist called Emile Burnouf stated that the swastika was a symbol rejected by the Jews, because it didn´t appear in places where they used to live. This idea is false, because swastikas can be found almost everywhere, but this relation between swastikas and anti- semitism extended. 

Before the Nazis, different nationalist associations in Germany used swastikas, such as the Teutonic Order and Thule Society and it was also the symbol chosen by the DAP (German Workers´Party), where Hitler inflitrated as an informant for the army. When the Nazis designed the NSDAP flag, they included the swastika on it.  They chose the red colour (meaning the social part of their movement), the white (which is related to their nationalism) and the swastika, which symbolized the struggle of the Arian man. Hitler preferred the left-facing swastika, which has been  related to decadence and death, but he identified it with a whirlwind and a solar symbol. 

The German Socialist Party (SPD) created a paramilitary group called the Iron Front to oppose the Nazis and they also designed a symbol to easily cover or cross out the Nazi swastikas. Their emblem consisted of three arrows pointing south-west and  their meaning was union, activity and discipline. 

Emblem of the Iron Front

Anti-NSDAP rally of the Iron Front in Berlin 1932

The swastika is forbidden in Germany at present. The German government tried to extend the prohibition to all the European Union in 2005, but this proposition was rejected by some EU members. In Asia swastikas are very common, because they are related to different religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Here you have an example of swastika on a Korean temple: 


Enrique Vázquez said...

Hello! Paqui!

This is very interesting. Thanks!
But I have a question, Swastika is refered to the Nazi symbol or to every kind of symbol that represents somthing?


Paqui Pérez Fons said...

No, swastika refers to the symbol the Nazis used as their emblem, but if you´ve read the post, swastikas exist since Prehistory and in different cultures all around the world. They were not exclussively used by the Nazis, but they transformed this symbol into something very bad for what it means.

Have a good night.