The Swastika-Hakenkreuz debate flared up yet again clearly highlighting the need for sensitivity and knowledge in the society. A prominent handle, @StopAntisemites on twitter led a lynching campaign against a Hindu student who tried to differentiate between the Nazi Hakenkreuz and Hindu Swastika.

“.@BrandeisU Student Union President, Simran Tatuskar, wants to re-invent the swastika’s reputation in the school’s curriculum and present it as a peaceful symbol.
And nope, she’s NOT Jewish.
But she IS trying to normalize the largest symbol of hate in America.
In Nazi Germany, one of the first thing antisemites did was erase the history and persecution of the Jews, minimize their struggles and appropriate their beings.
By normalizing the swastika, this is repeating that vicious cycle.”

This raises two questions – what does the lynch mob want and who is it who doesn’t want to decouple Swastika from Hakenkreuz.

A Twitter handle David B Cohen almost hit the mark, trying to spell the problem – almost. In fact, his tweet addresses the second question – who it it who doesn’t want to decouple Swastika from Hakenkreuz with a single word – allies. Who is it who want to drive a wedge between Indian and Israel?

If a hate group appropriated the Star of David, Jews wouldn’t abandon the symbol. We’d reclaim it and educate others on why it’s important to us. Let’s show our allies in the #Hindu and other communities the same respect.

However, Cohen is not completely correct – unlike the Star of David, Hitler never used a Swastika. Hitler always used the Hakenkreuz, his version most probably derived from the one used in Lambach Abbey. The real question then would be, why is it that the German Haukenkrauz got coupled with the Oriental Swastika.

It is not that Swastika is unknown in Europe under that name. As the story goes, the origins of this confusion started with the excavations of Troy where Heinrich Schliemann found some Swastika like symbols in 1870s and later excavations threw up the symbol almost everywhere in the world. It fact, the symbol is found in that great abundance in Troy (“The Swastika” by Thomas Wilson, 1894),

Many specimens of the Swastika were found by Dr. Schliemann in the ruins of Troy, principally on spindle whorls, vases, and bijoux of precious metal. Zmigrodzki made from Dr. Schliemann’s great atlas the following classification of the objects found at Troy, ornamented with the Swastika and its related forms:

Fifty-five of pure form; 114 crosses with the four dots, points or alleged nail holes (Croix swasticale); 102 with three branches or arms (triskelion); 86 with five branches or arms; 63 with six branches or arms; total, 420.

Zmigrodzki continues his classification by adding those which have relation to the Swastika thus: Eighty-two representing stars; 70 representing suns; 42 representing branches of trees or palms; 15 animals non-ferocious, deer, antelope, hare, swan, etc.; total, 209 objects. Many of these were spindle whorls.”


Unsurprisingly, Schliemann, coming from the Europe when imperialism was at it’s peak complains,

“I do not like the use of the word svastika outside of India. It is a word of Indian origin and has its history and definite meaning in India. * * * The occurrence of such crosses in different parts of the world may or may not point to a common origin, but if they are once called Svastika the vulgus profanum will at once jump to the conclusion that they all come from India, and it will take some time to weed out such prejudice.”

The symbol is dominating enough all over the world that the anthropologists scrambled to understand if there is a link.

The below discussion is interesting.

The appearance of the swastika among the nations of both Americas was first a surprise to anthropologists and seemed to give credence to the Chinese account of the spread of Buddhism to Fusang, a country far away East beyond the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Wilson has even discovered in an unquestionable prehistoric mound in Tennessee a figure seated in Buddha fashion ; but the evidence that it is Buddhistic is neither sufficient nor convincing.
Mr. Wilson grants (p. 882) that “one swallow does not make a summer,” but he argues that, “taken in connection with the swastika,” it furnishes “circumstantial evidence” to prove “the migration of Buddhism from Asia.” In our opinion, the shell engraving (though it may be different in style from the usual type of art among the mound-builders) betrays no Chinese, let alone East Indian, taste, —notwithstanding Mr. Gandhi’s endorsement of the hypothesis.

In fact, the symbol has a very strong Christian symbology as well, sourced through the Greek tradition. A paper from the era, Flyfot and Swastika mentions,

“In ancient Greece the swastika was called gammadion, because its arms are of the same shape as the letter gamma (F), but its significance was almost forgotten. It appears still on the breast of Apollo, and some Greek antiquarian has ingeniously explained it as a monogram of Zeus, the figure consisting of two Z’s placed cross-wise.”

The same paper states that before Cross became a symbol of Christianity, the Christians used Swastika and Ankh as their symbols. The Christian Swastika was called Crux Gammata(the Gamma Cross) or Gammadion.

Zoeckler says that the key of life ? as well as the swastika ࿕ appears on cups and other domestic utensils, on the tombs of martyrs, also on the garments of grave diggers, etc.; and (according to de Rossi) they were the favorite symbols of the earliest times, their use being in vogue in the second and third centuries of our era. Gori, a Roman Catholic archaeologist, suggests that the swastika was the monogram of Jesus, in which Christ’s name was spelled Zesus and thus abbreviated into two crossed Z’s

The swastika, being called gammadion, was frequently regarded as a composition of four letters gamma (F). Zmigrodski in Zur Geschichte der Swastika, Fig. 136) reproduces from Rohault de Fleury’s L’Avangile (Ravenna) a picture of the celebration of the mass (sixth century) where Christ is surrounded by four disciples, perhaps the Gospel writers, each one wearing a gamma.

On the appearance of the Christogram ☧ and the definite acceptance of the cross as the symbol of the Christian faith, the swastika began to fall into disuse, yet it was never entirely abandoned, and we find it still used in the eighth century as an ornament in the embroidery of sacerdotal garments. It is difficult to say whether its reappearance in northern countries, among the Saxons, the Scandinavians, the Poles, and other Slavs, etc., must be attributed to a revival of prehistoric pagan influences or should be regarded as a lingering reminiscence of its use among the early Christians.

In fact, the symbol is not unknown even in Jewism like the famous Capareum Synagogue.

Israel: Capernaum synagogue - Pro-Swastika

So, why did the name Swastika become mainstream? Because it’s simpler, associated with a religion which is not Christianity and it’s from an exotic language.

The 1894 Swastika Report gives the details as thus

“Of the many forms of the cross, the Swastika is the most ancient. Despite the theories and speculations of students, its origin is unknown, It began before history, and is properly classified as prehistoric. Its description is as follows: The bars of the normal Swastika are straight, of equal thickness throughout, and cross each other at right angles, making four arms of equal size, length and style. Their peculiarity is that all the ends are bent at right angles and in the same direction, right or left. Prof. Max Müller makes the symbol different according as the arms are bent to the right or the left. That bent to the right demonstrates the true Swastika, that bent to the left he calls the Suavastika, but he gives no authority for the statement, and the author has been unable to find, except in Burnouf, any justification for a difference of names.”

The writing clearly hints that the symbol is not known well enough even in the educated circles in the western world even by 1890s. But, it is understood that even by that time, Swastika has become the global consensus for the symbol.

In Great Britain the common name given to the Swastika, from Anglo-Saxon times by those who apparently had no knowledge whence it came, or that it came from any other than their own country, was Fylfot, said to have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon fower fot, meaning four-footed, or many-footed.

The Swastika was occasionally called in the French language, in earlier times, Croix gammée or Gammadion, from its resemblance to a combination of four of the Greek letters of that name, and it is so named by Count Goblet d’Alviella in his late work, “La Migration des Symboles.” It was also called Croix cramponnée, Croix pattée, Croix à crochet. But the consensus even of French etymologists favors the name Swastika.

Some foreign authors have called it Thor’s hammer, or Thor’s hammer-mark, but the correctness of this has been disputed. Waring, in his elaborate work, “Ceramic Art in Remote Ages,” says:

The [Z] used to be vulgarly called in Scandinavia the hammer of Thor, and Thor’s hammer-mark, or the hammer-mark, but this name properly belongs to the mark [Y].

Clearly, the Flyfot is known everywhere, even under the name of Swastika irrespective of it’s religious affiliation. It has become a symbol of the society by the early 1900s.

Label from Swastika "eating fruit" (1930s); playing cards (1920s); and a Coca-Cola pendant issued for teenagers
BBC: How the world loved the swastika – until Hitler stole it

Now, the question is, how did this symbol get associated with the Nazi hate regime. The origins to Aryan super race can be traced to Schliemann himself – it was his cartographer Emile Burnouf who can be viewed as the originator of this theory.

Because the swastika was known to be common in Indian religion and culture, Burnouf turned to the sacred, ancient Hindu epic known as the Rigveda to interpret — or reinvent — the meaning of the swastika.

And in addition to referencing the swastika, this text and others like it also make reference to “Aryans,” a term used by some ancient peoples in modern-day India starting in the sixth century B.C. to mark themselves as a circumscribed linguistic, cultural, and religious group amongst the other such groups in the area at the time.

It’s true that the term “Aryan” in this sense encompassed certain connotations of this group’s self-proclaimed superiority over other groups in the area at the time. Some theories hold that these Aryans invaded present-day India from the north thousands of years ago and displaced the region’s darker-skinned inhabitants.

Nevertheless, Burnouf misinterpreted (both foolishly and willfully) the racial superiority implications in these texts and ran with them. Burnouf and other writers and thinkers across Europe in the late 1800s used the presence of the swastika in both these ancient Indian texts and at the Troy excavation site to conclude that the Aryans were once the inhabitants of Troy, which Heinrich Schliemann had fortuitously found.

Then, after various linguists made connections between the ancient Aryan language and modern-day German, many Germans caught up in the rising tide of nationalism both before and after World War I began claiming this Aryan “master race” identity as their own.

German nationalist groups such as the anti-Semitic Reichshammerbund and the Bavarian Freikorps, a paramilitary group that wanted to overthrow the Weimar Republic, then built upon this perceived German-Aryan connection and picked up the swastika as a symbol of German nationalism (before the Nazis did).

According to Professor Quinn “The Swastika fragments became for pseudo-scholars like Bernouff the perfect excuse to build a new mythology and invent a single pan-European colonial warrior race, using the Swastika as their emblemThe Swastika made German nobodies into Aryo-Germanic somebodies in much the same was as the commodity sign continues to set standards for judgments of value, class, and gender.

Anthropologist Gwendolyn Leick writes, “When Heinrich Schliemann discovered swastika-like decorations on pottery fragments in all archaeological levels at Troy, it was seen as evidence for a racial continuity and proof that the inhabitants of the site had been Aryan all along. The link between the swastika and Indo-European origin, once forged was impossible to discard. It allowed the projection of nationalist feelings and associations onto a universal symbol, which hence served as a distinguishing boundary marker between non-Aryan, or rather non-German, and German identity.

But, Hitler didn’t use the word Swastika. He probably understood the symbology, but he called it Haukenkrauz, though the language he used is exactly the Aryan supremacist language of the previous decades. Again, the difference between Hitler’s German original and Murphy’s English translation is starkly visible.

Ich selbst hatte unterdes nach unzähligen Versuchen eine endgültige Form niedergelegt; eine Fahne aus rotem Grundtuch mit einer weißen Scheibe und in deren Mitte ein schwarzes Hakenkreuz. Nach langen Versuchen fand ich auch ein bestimmtes Verhältnis zwischen der Größe der Fahne und der Größe der weißen Scheibe sowie der Form und Stärke des Hakenkreuzes.

After innumerable trials I decided upon a final form–a flag of red material with a white disc bearing in its centre a black swastika. After many trials I obtained the correct proportions between the dimensions of the flag and of the white central disc, as well as that of the swastika. And this is how it has remained ever since.

In fact, Murphy is accused of deliberately mistranslating Hakenkreuz into Swastika leading to the perpetual hate against the symbol. His clerical background and Nazi Germany rejecting Murphy’s translation further hints at a deliberate malice.

There are theories that Hitler modelled his cross based on what he saw in Lambach Abbey in his childhood, but that is irrelevant – Hitler never used the word Swastika and probably never intended to. It was a Christian and German symbol for him.

OMAIMON PARADOSIS: The Swastikas of Lambach Abbey

in fact, one can argue that Hitler’s symbolism is Christian going by the fact that Hitler sourced his anti-Jew hatred from the Christian tradition as what Steven T. Katz observes –

 [A]lthough the tradition of Chrysostom continued to cause unbridled vituperation for Jews and Judaism, climaxing in the violence of 1096 and beyond, the modulating Augustinian position became, more or less, the “official” policy of the papacy … [G]overnmental coercion became the instrument though which the Church made its scornful commentary on Judaism. Here is the decisive turn in the history of Christian anti-Judaism, a turn whose ultimate disfiguring consequence was enacted in the political antisemitism of Adolf Hitler.

The question needs to be addressed ultimately. Why should a Hindu take the blame for a Christian/German symbol which was vilified by a German Christian? Forget taking blame, why should a Hindu even explain why a Jew is wrong when he accuses a Hindu of sporting a symbol which resembles something which induces painful memories in them? A tweet over the topic sums up the whole discussion aptly.

When illiterates become the champions of the society, this is what will happen. The champions of truth don’t even know the difference between Christian flyfot/hakaristi/hakenkrauz and the Hindu/Buddhist Swastika. First, they should apologize for hurting Hindu sentiments by giving a Hindu name to an atrocious Christian supremacist symbol – a symbol which is used even in Jewism.

  1. Swastika: The Power of a Symbol
  2. The Man Who Brought the Swastika to Germany, and How the Nazis Stole It
  3. The Swastika – Thomas Wilson
  4. The Fylfot and Swastika

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