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The Swastika: Past and Hitler's Story

The Swastika: Past and Hitler's Story

The 'Swastika' stands for good fortune, peace, and harmony. Hitler turned this symbol the other way round, to denote evil and black magic. This article throws light on this symbol that terrorized the world during the World War II and produced doubts in the minds of men who thought it to be a sign for peace and harmony.
Vishwas Purohit
The Swastika is a universal symbol, being used from the Bronze Age onwards on objects of every kind. The word comes from Sanskrit: su (Greek eu, meaning 'good'), asti (Greek esto, meaning 'to be'), and the suffix ka. The symbol means 'good luck' (the Sanskrit-Tibetan word Swasti means 'may it be auspicious'). According to Joscelyn Godwin, the shape of the swastika derives from the constellation Arktos, also known as the Great Bear, the Plough, and the Big Dipper. To the observer in the Northern Hemisphere, this constellation appears to rotate around Polaris, the Pole Star (an effect caused by the rotation of the Earth). If the positions of Arktos in relation to Polaris are represented in pictorial form (corresponding to the four seasons), the result is highly suggestive of this symbol; in 4000 BC, they were identical to the symbol. It is for this reason that it (aside from denoting good fortune) has been used to represent the Pole.

The Swastika gained importance in European culture in the nineteenth century, primarily in the fields of comparative ethnology and Oriental studies. The absence of the symbol from Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria, and Phoenicia led the ethnologists to believe that it was an Aryan sun symbol. Madame Blavatsky saw the significance of the symbol, and incorporated it into the seal of the Theosophical Society to signify the harmony of universal movement. According to Godwin: 'So innocent were the "good luck" associations of this mark, that during World War I, it was used as the emblem of the British War Savings Scheme, appearing on coupons and stamps.'

This mark appears in two forms: left-handed and right-handed. However, confusion quickly arises when one is faced with the question of how to define 'left' and 'right' with regard to this symbol. Some occultists and historians favor a definition based on the direction taken by the arms, as they extend outward from the center; while others prefer to define 'left' and 'right' in terms of the apparent direction of rotation. The confusion arises from the fact that a swastika whose arms proceed to the left appears to be rotating to the right, and vice versa.

Each variant of this symbol has been taken to mean different things by writers on the occult, such as the Frenchman Andre Brissaud who says that the one, which spins counter clockwise represents the rotation of the Earth on its axis, and is the 'Wheel of the Golden Sun', symbolizing creation, evolution, and fertility. The one, which spins clockwise is, according to Brissaud, the 'Wheel of the Black Sun', representing man's quest for power in opposition to Heaven. However, there is another explanation of the left- and right-handed ones: the left-handed (clockwise turning) symbol represents the migration of the ancient Aryan Race from its homeland at the North Pole, while the right-handed (counter clockwise-turning) symbol - the one used by the Nazis, represents the destiny of the Aryans to return to their spiritual center at the South Pole.

After informing us of the complexities attached to the interpretation of left- and right-handed patterns, Godwin continues:

Whatever the validity of these theories, the ancient, decorative swastikas show no preference whatsoever for one type over the other. The place where the left-right distinction is supposed to be most significant is Tibet, where both Nicholas Roerich and Anagarika Govinda observed that the swastika of the ancient Bon-Po religion points to the left, the Buddhist one to the right. Now, it is true that the Bon-Pos perform ritual circles counter-clockwise, the Buddhists clockwise, but almost all the Buddhist iconography collected by Thomas Wilson shows left-handed ones, just like the ones on the Bon-Pos' ritual scepter, their equivalent of the Buddhist vajra. One can only say that it should perhaps be left-handed if it denotes polar revolution, and right-handed if (as in Buddhism) it symbolizes the course of the sun. But the root of the problem is probably the inherent ambiguity of the symbol itself, which makes the left-handed pattern appear to be rotating to the right, and vice versa.

This symbol gained popularity among German anti-Semitic groups through the writings of Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels, who took the symbol of good fortune and universal harmony, and used it to denote the unconquerable Germanic hero. The counter-clockwise orientation was used as a banner by the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), and it aroused considerable controversy in occult and esoteric circles.

According to the occult historian Francis King, when Hitler called for suggestions for a banner, all the submissions included the symbol in question. The one he finally chose, had been designed by Dr Friedrich Krohn, a dentist from Sternberg. However, the design incorporated a clockwise-turning pattern, symbolizing good fortune, harmony, and spirituality.

Hitler decided to reverse the design, making the direction counter-clockwise, symbolizing evil and black magic. Here again, there is the problem of defining what is right and left-handed. Was the Nazi symbol right-handed (traditionally denoting good) or left-handed (denoting evil)? In one sense, the Nazi sign could be said to be right-handed, because the hooked arms extend to the right; conversely, it could be said to be left-handed, since the apparent rotation is counter-clockwise. As the journalist Ken Anderson notes: 'What we are dealing with is subjective definition ... We can speculate that Hitler had chosen to reverse the cross because of the connotations of black magic and evil in Krohn's cross, and for the purpose of evoking the positive images of good luck, spiritual evolution, etc., for his fledgling party!'. Anderson gives the impression of having his tongue slightly in his cheek, but his interpretation is almost certainly correct, for two reasons.

Firstly, it must be remembered that Hitler himself had very little time for occult mumbo-jumbo, and was certainly not practicing black magic, as many occultists claim him to have done. Secondly, the idea that he considered himself 'evil' (as he would have had to have done in order to take the step of reversing a positive symbol to a negative one), or that evil was an attractive concept for him is ridiculous. But history tells us that one of his most terrifying and baffling aspects was that he did not consider himself 'evil', as Trevor-Roper states, Hitler was convinced of his own rectitude, that he was acting correctly in exterminating the Jews and the other groups targeted for destruction by the Nazis.

In addition, he himself makes no mention of such an alteration in his book, Mein Kampf. In view of the fact that he took most of the credit for the design himself, neglecting even to mention Krohn's name, he would surely have explained the reasons for his making such a fundamental alteration to the design of the NSDAP banner.

" ... I was obliged to reject without exception the numerous designs, which poured in from the circles of the young movement ... I myself, as a leader, did not want to come out publicly at once with my own design, since after all it was possible that another should produce one just as good or perhaps even better. Actually, a dentist from Starnberg did deliver a design that was not bad at all, and incidentally, was quite close to my own, having only the one fault that a swastika with curved legs was composed into a white disk.

I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials, I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika."

The symbol of peace and tranquility was used to represent the team led by Hitler to perform one of the most hideous forms of human massacre. It led to many misconceptions in the human race about its validity, which still cannot be answered satisfactorily.