Probably the above symbol caught your eyes before you read the title. I have not seen any surveys conducted regarding the familiarity of the “average American,” especially the younger generations, with the history of the swastika, so I thought for today’s post I would take a stab at bringing attention to this subject, given the rise of neo-Nazis and associated white supremacist groups in Europe and especially here at home.
The symbol above was on the shoulder patch of the United States 45th Infantry during its first 15 years, up to WW2, when it was changed to a gold eagle design since Hitler had co-opted the basic symbol for the Nazis sordid campaign.
The Swastika is known to be some 12,000 years old, in various forms, and is a common symbol in Indian culture, Tibetan Buddhism and some of the First Peoples of this land. It also can be found elsewhere, and even today appears in many, many locations here in America, long pre-dating Hitler. The Swastika has varied forms, including the left facing, right facing (as the Nazis chose), and other forms. Tibetan Buddhism uses the left facing form, whereas the one above, selected by indigenous peoples of the Southwest, was their interpretation. Over time, the symbol has appeared over a large part of the planet, including the Ashanti kingdom of West Africa. One of my gurus, Joseph Campbell, addressed the mythology of the Swastika, as has many other academics. Hitler stole it.
Hitler stole it, and we see how that went. Yes, his rats scurried here and there, and many of there progeny or adherents no doubt are still in Germany. Nazis of the old days who eluded the Allies fled to Argentina (where, in 1960, Eichmann was arrested by Israeli agents, taken to Israel, tried, sentenced and hung), and many were admitted and some 1600 scientists and engineers were secretly transported to the US and put to work in pursuit of their military/technical knowledge. Werner Von Braun was one such German, with questionable background as to the treatment of slave labor used in the V-2 missile production; he went on to become basically one of the fathers of the US race to the Moon. (Goes to show, America neither had nor has any particularly higher moral arc than the rest of the world, we merely protected our power interests then and now.)
Shortly after the Berlin wall came down, I was in central Germany on business. One evening, by chance, I happened to be seated with four Austrians, two couples, about my age at that time. During the meal, one English-speaking “chap” suddenly asked me what I thought of the Jewish problem. They could see the shock registered on my face, and dropped the topic like a hot potato. After that dinner I walked through a local cemetery filled with headstones on graves of German officers of both wars……I secretly hoped my father had put at least one there. Only a few days ago I read an article written by a Jewish lady in Germany. I did not know how few Jews live there now, around 250,000, such a low number that few German “Gentiles” (or whatever) even know a Jew, I suppose similar to here in the US (I could count on two hands the Jews I have been acquainted with, and suppose I should do better than that.) The author of the article described in some detail issues of attitudes toward Jews in Germany today…..not coming from neo-Nazi crowds (of course the Swastika is banned there), but Germans at large. The situation is not good, and she gave the opinion of things getting worse. But don’t get me wrong, I do believe that most Germans today are at least “as good” as Americans (if not more so).
I have since a child hated the Nazi Swastika, since I knew my own father had fought them in Italy, dropping tons of bombs on their asses from his B-25. In 1960, as a teen living at the time in San Diego, a “buddy” of mine took me to the home of a real ex-German officer. I do not recall seeing any Swastika in his home, but I do recall a lot of military “stuff,” like a sword, and a bunch of silver vases and other nice ware (I was even suspicious about the goods then, but said nothing of course, being only 15 years old.) I suspect the guy may have been among the 1600 mentioned above, and he may very well have worked at the same plant my father worked at building the Atlas missiles.
So now in America, with a neo-Nazi now as the President, it further reinforces in my mind the bad luck that Hitler brought on his ilk. Trump (Bottomless Moral Turpitude dude) will soon go under. The prejudice and hate of those infected by Hitler’s co-opting of a magical symbol, will eventually bring them down also. There is an old saying, “God doesn’t like ugly,” and although that a great simplification, I believe in its intended meaning. Time will continue along the slowly rising arc of morality in the world.
The reader might want to check this out: