History of the Swastika

Simone Blint, Chapter 15 Project

Meaning of the Swastika

The Swastika was used by many cultures before it was made infamous by the Nazi's. In fact, the Swastika was in use by other groups at least 5,000 years before Hitler used it. The Swastika symbolized anything from peace to the 'four winds of the earth'. The word Swastika itself comes from the Sanskrit Svastika which means "good fortune" or "well-being". To this day, the Swastika is a sacred symbol used in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It's commonly found in houses or temples in India and Indonesia.

Swastika in Religion

The Right hand Swastika is one of 108 symbols for the Hindu god Vishnu, one of the three deities, the sun and Surya, the god of the sun. The symbol imitates the course taken by the sun using its "arms" as it moves from the northern hemisphere to the east to the south and then to the west. It can be found in art, architecture and decoration. The Left hand Swastika represents the Hindu goddess Kali, the goddess of night and magic, it's most commonly used in Buddhism. Now it's a commonly used symbol in Hindu art, architecture, and decoration in weddings and other religious ceremonies.

Hitlers use of the Swastika

The Nazis adopted the Swastika because it was seen as an Aryan symbol indicating racial purity and superiority which is what Hitlers whole political campaign. Hitler was tasked with finding a symbol to represent his party, he chose the swastika because of the Aryan meaning and his belief that it had historically had an "eternal anti-Semitic" meaning. He chose to make the background red to appeal to the common worker. Once he was put into power, his first action was to abolish the Weimar Republic flag and replace it with the old imperial red, white, and black flown in conjunction with the Swastika flag.

The Effect of the Swastika Flag on the People

The Swastika was said to have an almost mesmerizing effect on the people of Germany. Despite the origin, the flag had a dramatic effect on the people and on the first day it was shown to the public anti-Semites and unemployed workers rallied. Even Nazi opponents were forced to admit its hypnotic effect, an American correspondent wrote "The hooked cross seemed to beckon to action the insecure lower-middle classes which had been floundering in uncertainty."

My Reaction

I think it's weird but interesting that the Swastika was and in some cases still is used as a religious sign. There seemed to be a lot of different meanings to the Swastika to different people in different cultures. Hitlers use of the Swastika seems to not only have made it an infamous symbol but also made people forget that it once had a positive meaning to some people. It's sad that a symbol of hope, good fortune and well-being was turned into a symbol of hatred, violence and nonacceptance because of one man's terrible actions.

Works Cited

"History of the Swastika." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

"Menu." Power of Perspective. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

"The Power of Symbolism." The Power of Symbolism. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

"Swastika Symbol (Hinduism)." Swastika Symbol-ReligionFacts. ReligionFacts, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

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