The Nazi Appropriation of Symbols

This post contains swearing, and is quite long. You have been warned.

Now I did promise that this blog wouldn’t be political. I’ve long had a tendency towards writing about politics and current events. And as much as it might annoy you to read it, it also isn’t what I want to spend my time doing. While my conscious preference has always been to write stories and stuff about games and films and such, my subconscious — let’s say it’s that — has always pushed me back towards commenting on what’s in the news and what this or that party or country has done or not done. The entirety of the world’s media and social media is writing about politics and current events all the time, so what is there for me to add, really?

But needs must, because some things are important, and today I’d like to talk to you about Nazis.

Recent events both here in the UK and in the US — I won’t beat about the bush here: it’s the Brexit vote and the election and sort-of-presidency of Donald Trump, respectively — have given rise to an upsurge in what’s being called “far right” activity and sentiment. This has culminated in the white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the worldwide anger at Trump’s apparent embrace — or at least absence of condemnation — of the rabble of Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen responsible.

I think we can all agree that Nazis are bad. All of us other than Nazis, I mean, but what do their opinions matter? Nazis are shitty people. In fact, they’re traditionally viewed as being amongst history’s shittiest people. By the way, a point on definitions. I hear a lot of euphemistic shenanigans in media about how they’re the “alt-right”, or the “far right”, or — most egregiously apologetic, in my view — “conservatives”. No. Here, they’re Nazis. Or fuckwads, if I’m feeling unprofessional. And I’m not open to debate about how “Hitler was actually left wing” or how “the Nazis were actually socialists“. I’m not interested in how the shitbags and their shitbag-in-chief tried to present themselves. They are what they did — and so are those in the modern day who would, given the opportunity, do similar things.

With that out of the way — taking it as axiomatic that modern Nazis, like their historical forebears, are repugnant people promoting a repugnant worldview — let’s focus down a little, because there’s a specific element of historical and modern Nazism that I want to concentrate on today. Now this particular issue might seem of peripheral importance to you, but please bear with me.

I want to talk about the Nazi appropriation of symbols.

You, dear reader, know all too well what this is:

Photo by Michael Coghlan. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The swastika. An ancient symbol, associated with good luck; possibly one of many cross-like signs used since distant antiquity as emblems of the Sun. The swastika is a holy symbol in Buddhism and is likewise important in Jainism and Hinduism. Found in archaeology and architecture throughout the world, particularly in Europe and Asia, the swastika was freely used in many contexts… until the European interwar period.

You know what happened then.

A fledgeling German nationalist party adopted the swastika as its emblem, in the form of the hakenkreuz — the ‘Hooked Cross’:


They then set about attempting to subjugate and exterminate everyone they considered unworthy throughout Europe, and ever since then, the swastika has been a sort of signo non grata. Its association with Hitler and his goose-stepping savages has tainted the symbol in the eyes of Europeans and the ‘western’ world, such that its use has been exclusively allocated to the Nazis.

And this, frankly, pisses me off.

Like I said, the arrogant appropriation of important cultural symbolism certainly isn’t the worst crime the Nazi regime and its followers committed back then — but it is the only one we seem to have turned a blind eye to. It’s the only one we seem happy to let them get away with. And it’s one that their ideological remnants in the modern day continue to commit, and continue, on the whole, to be excused for.

I’ve had enough of excusing. The original Nazis were soundly defeated in every respect. We should finish the job, and defeat them in this respect too.

The swastika does not belong to Hitler or his mindless acolytes, then or now. It is not their property. They had no right to it, and they still don’t.

It’s not the only symbolism they stole. Their obsession with eagles and laurels came straight from the Romans. Now, admittedly, there aren’t that many Ancient Romans around these days, but there are countless societies and cultures across Europe and elsewhere which have been influenced by Roman symbolism — not least the United States, which takes its eagles pretty seriously. And there are still people who follow the religion of pre-Christian Rome for whom many of these symbols are of significant importance (hi!). It’s not too bad for modern Romans, though: you likely don’t think ‘Nazi’ for every eagle symbol you see; and in fact I’d wager there’s probably only one that really invokes them. You know the one. The logo that fashion brand ‘Boy London’ was using in the mid-2010s (I don’t know if they still use it). Wings straight out or sometimes shown folded down at right angles; very stylised; circular laurel wreath held in its talons.

It’s the one that was on the crate that what’s in this crate was originally in. See?

The ones who really get hit hard by this cultural theft in the modern day are the Scandinavians, the northern Europeans, and, in religious terms, the Heathens. In some cases known as the Asatruar, as well as other names, these are the people who today see nobility and worth in the pre-Christian religious traditions of the Norse and the Germanic regions. They are the people who hold to a faith in gods like Odin, Thor, Frey, Freyja, Tyr and the countless other members of the Norse pantheon.

I should make a full disclosure here. While I am not myself Asatru, my wife is, and I’m familiar with Asatru traditions and beliefs and the values that they represent. And I can say, clearly, and firmly, that Nazism, or any similar form of supremacism, cannot be justified by reference to these traditions.

The Norse gods themselves are incompatible with Nazism or supremacism by definition. The gods’ fundamental qualities deny the validity of these putrid beliefs. Odin, the All-Father, is called a warrior god, and with good reason: he has the task of assembling the great army of the Einherjar — the heroes fallen in earthly battle who will form part of the gods’ army at Ragnarok. But Odin is much more than that. He is also renowned for his wisdom, his insight, his depth of understanding. He sees far beyond the scope of mere human beings, and the idea that Odin would find wisdom or worth — much less heroism or nobility — in the deeds of white supremacists is just laughable.

Likewise, Thor, the god of thunder and storms, is feted for his might. His strength is legendary, but so is his compassion, and his sense of fairness. He is known as ‘Friend of the People’; a protector of humanity. Could such a being possibly see any merit in a worldview built exclusively on cowardice, as white supremacism can only be?

Nevertheless, if you’ve paid attention to the reports from Charlottesville, or any similar gathering of inadequates, you’ll have seen numerous traditional Norse or Germanic symbols and figures being employed. This is one you’ll see occasionally:


This star-like symbol is the Helm of Awe, an ancient Norse charm of defence and protection. References to the symbol are found in Fáfnismál, a section of the Poetic Edda that tells of a dragon called Fafnir who uses the symbol to ensure his invincibility. While the Helm of Awe certainly has military connotations and uses, it is primarily a defensive ward. It is a symbol of protection first and foremost.

Perhaps related to the Helm of Awe, this is the Vegvisir, sometimes called the ‘Norse Compass’:


This is a glyph found in one nineteenth-century text called the Huld manuscript. It’s defined as a charm which, if carried, will ensure the bearer never loses their way, even amidst storms. The true age of this symbol is unknown, but one thing that can be said for it with certainty is that it is nothing, whatsoever, to do with fascism, Nazi beliefs, or the subjugation of peoples.

Here’s a common one, oft found on the tattooed arms, legs, faces, arses probably, of fascist dickheads, with absolutely no justification:


This is the rune Othala, the last letter in the Elder Futhark, one of the stages in the evolution of northern European writing systems. Othala — also called Odal — is basically the Norse and Germanic ‘o’ sound, which they kept at the end of their alphabet for some reason.

The Vikings: vandalising ancient monuments long before Nazis were ever a thing.

This rune, along with its chums, carried on happily doing its runic thing with no particular connotations until some unct sharing his odious opinions decided to steal and corrupt it. This move was popular amongst other degenerate ctuns, and still continues today. The reason is that Othala is traditionally held to represent, among other things, ‘heritage’, in the sense of inherited land or property, one’s estate, and the stability and security that come with such.

Which fascist twats unfortunately read as justification for using it to represent supremacism. They had reasoning, and I could go into it, but I can’t be bothered because whichever way you slice it it’s fucking bollocks and doesn’t deserve my time.

Bullshit, Nazis. Bullshit.

Again, fascist fucks steal someone else’s symbol and taint it with their stench.

There are countless other signs and symbols that for some reason we’ve just let the Nazis keep their claws in. We’ve let it go on long enough. If Nazis feel empowered to climb once again out of their cesspool and stink up the place for normal people, then not only do I want them beaten down and driven back into the sludge once again, I want us to force these symbols back out of their hands on the way. I want them denied even that small victory.

The swastika is not their right. The Helm of Awe is not their right. Othala is not their right. I want the world, all of us, to tell our modern-day Nazi knuckle-draggers that, no, just as much as the gold and personal items they stole from the people they murdered in the past, these things — these sacred signs that once had dignity and value — are not theirs to claim. They never were. And like all stolen property, they should be seized from the thieves and restored to their rightful owners.

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