Neo-Nazi groups are making a comeback across Europe. They are in the forefront of those who oppose immigration that “dilute our shared heritage”.
The swastika is the well-known symbol used by Nazis, among the most hated men in history, who caused the deaths of millions of people in the most destructive war in history. But Adolf Hitler was not the first to use embrace this symbol. It was used for many centuries and on many continents before him as a powerful symbol embraced by diverse cultures.
For Buddhists, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, abundance and eternity. It is directly related to Buddha and can be found carved on statues on the soles of his feet. Even today, the symbol can be seen on temples, taxis, buses and even on the cover of books throughout India.
The swastika was used in Ancient Greece. It was a symbol linking heaven and earth, with the right arm pointing to heaven and its left arm pointing to Earth. It has also been found in the archeological remains of the ancient city of Troy, which existed 4,000 years ago.
The ancient Druids, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Hittites, Nordic tribes, early Christians and later Teutonic Knights all used the swastika as either a religious or geometric symbol.
In Nordic Myths, Odin is represented passing through space as a whirling disk or swastika looking down through all worlds.
In North America, it was used by many southwestern tribes, for which it had different meanings. To the Hopi, it represented the wandering Hopi clans; to the Navajo, it represented a whirling log, a sacred image that was used in healing rituals.
Even American organizations got into the act. Coca-Cola used it on an advertising pendant. The Girls' Club of America called their magazine Swastika. They even sent out swastika badges as prizes to their young readers for selling copies of the magazine. Surprisingly, it was used by the American military during WWI.
Unearthed in Ukraine, the earliest swastika found so far is on a figurine carved from Mammoth ivory; it has been dated at circa 10,000 BC. The Vinca is one of the earliest cultures that are known to have used the Swastika. It was a Neolithic culture that inhabited parts of the Balkans in Southeast Europe. This civilization existed around 8,000 years ago.
But why was this symbol so important to Adolf Hitler?
The Nazis use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th century German scholars who translated old Indian texts. They noticed there were similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. Based on this, they concluded that Indians and Germans must have a shared ancestry and further envisioned a race of white, god-like warriors, which they called Aryans.
Hitler somehow concluded this to mean that the swastika “has been and always will be anti-Semitic.” In Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), Hitler wrote that the Nazis’ emblem needed to be both a “symbol of our own struggle” and “effective as a large poster”.
Swatiska in Sanskrit can be variously translated as “well-being,” “good existence," “may good prevail,” or “permanent victory.”
After World War II, the swastika was banned in Germany. Being a member of the neo-Nazi group National Action can get you prison time in Britain.
It is unknown why so many cultures around the world and spanning so many centuries used the same symbol and having virtually the same meaning.