The Swastika is a cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either left-facing or right-facing forms. It is a widely-used religious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The symbol was also used in pre-Christian Europe. The word "Swastika" became part of the English language in the nineteenth century with the British conquest of India. In the 1920s, the Nazi party chose the swastika as its symbol and it is for this association that it is best known in the Western world.
The Swastika is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is also a sign of spiritual purity. The swastika was a letter in the ancient Sanskrit language. It meant luck or well being. It is also found on Byzantine buildings, Ancient Greek coinage and in Native American burial sites.
In Nazi GermanyEdit
The swastika was a symbol used by the Nazi Party in Germany, and later by the Third Reich. Adolf Hitler chose it as the symbol of the German Workers Party after he joined. Before Hitler, members had already worn swastika armbands. (They believed they were adopting an ancient European symbol; they were seemingly unaware of its continued use in the East.) Hitler was responsible for its red, white and black coloring. From 1935 – 1945 it was used on the German flag. The symbol became stigmatized because of its association with Nazi war crimes.
Since shortly after World War II, it has been illegal in Germany and Austria to display the swastika and other Nazi symbols. The swastikas on Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples are exempt from this law, because religious symbols cannot be banned in Germany.
Since at least the early 2000s, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have become more and more upset and annoyed to see their holy symbol being used as a badge of hatred by racists and neo-Nazis. One way that they have tried to reestablish their symbol as one of peace and good fortune is to try to encourage use its name in German, Hakenkreuz (hooked cross), when writing about the Nazis' version of it. (Although the Asian religions usually show the symbol in vertical/horizontal orientation and the Nazis usually showed it diagonally, neither group (especially the Nazis) did so consistently.) As of 2022, it does not seems that this campaign has achieved success yet: the Western media continue to use the name "swastika" when writing about neo-Nazi use of it.
Heinrich Pudor's völkisch Treu Deutsch ('True German') 1918 with a swastika. From the collections of Leipzig City Museum.
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