The swastika was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.”
Archeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.”
In the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe. However, the work of Schliemann soon was taken up by völkisch movements, for whom the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride
This conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people is likely one of the main reasons why the Nazi party formally adopted the swastika or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920.
After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially “pure” state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: “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 swastika (or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross)) would become the most recognizable icon of Nazi propaganda, appearing on the flag referred to by Hitler in Mein Kampf as well as on election posters, arm bands, medallions, and badges for military and other organizations. (Holocaust Memorial Museum)
On September 15, 1935, the Nazi government introduced the Nuremberg Laws, legislation which defined German society and state in fascist and racial terms, and strengthened the legal oppression of Jews. (Telegraph)
The swastika came to Hawai‘i in 1936 – it flew aboard the Emden.
On January 7, 1925 the light cruiser Emden, the first significant warship built after the First World War, was launched at Wilhelmshaven and refitted as a training ship.
On October 23, 1935, the Emden embarked on a cruise through the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific – Azores, Caribbean, Venezuela, Panama Canal, Oregon, Honolulu, Panama Canal, Baltimore, Montreal and Pontevedra (Spain).
Karl Dönitz commanded the 1935 training cruise of the Emden. (He later became commander of submarines and eventually grand admiral. He was also Hitler’s successor and leader of the short-lived Flensburg government (1945)).
They arrived in Honolulu on February 8, 1936. The Royal Hawaiian Band greeted them and played music at Honolulu Harbor. The German crew band broke into music on board.
“In the evening (was a) big reception with dancing. … The next day on the trip to Kailua Beach is better. Here and in the following days in the Waikiki Beach – we experience so much vaunted Hawaii in every respect. With every day it becomes more beautiful.”
“Car and swimming trips alternate with family invitations. Whether German, Hawaiian, American, Military, Japanese or Chinese, we are soon good friends with them.”
“Willingly we are shown the paradisiacal beauty of the island. Who gets to see a hula hula dance, what can add special beauty to his memories.”
“The number of our friends is so great that it is impossible to invite them all to a board fixed, so the commander puts on two afternoons board hard, so we are able to guarantee granted us hospitality to thank all our friends and girlfriends.”
“Again, we are all endowed very rich goodbye. Hours earlier, everything gathered in front of the ship, listening to the … Military band. Then plays and then sing again the Royal Hawaiian band.”
“Each of our friends hanged a wreath of flowers around, pushes us again the hand and says: Aloha! This word of Hawaiians expresses all the feelings of his friends.”
“It is a farewell to one of us probably no one forgets. Even our brave ship carries an Aloha wreath at the bow. Always quieter Aloha calls, nor do we see the Aloha Tower, then the Diamond Head, and then we throw the wreaths – as required by the custom – overboard, the dream of Hawaii is over! – Aloha oe!!” (Witnesses Report; Norderstedter Zeitzeugen)
The Emden left the Islands on February 17, 1936.
Emden spent the majority of her career as a training ship; at the outbreak of war, she laid minefields off the German coast and was damaged by a British bomber that crashed into her. (WorthPoint)
During WWII the Emden was used as a training ship but participated also in several combat operations until 1944. In January 1945, “she took on board the mortal remains of General Field Marshal Hindenburg and his wife, which had been disinterred” to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy hands. (Williamson) (Paul von Hindenburg was German President before Hitler.)
Badly damaged by British bombers on April 10, 1945 at Kiel, she was blown up on May 3rd in the Heikendorfer Bay. The remains were broken up for scrap in 1949. (Ships Nostalgia)
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It is important to note that the Nazi swatika is always depicted on point whereas the South Asian swatika sits on the horizontal leg of the symbol. The tilted swastika indicated the winds of war, quite opposite from the peaceful use in Hinduism and Buddhism. In India, the symbol is used in temples and often inscribed above an entry door for good wishes. Most westerners fail to notice the angled difference.