The image discussed in this blog is the Swastika, also known by such names as Flyfot, Hakenkreuz, Gammadion, etc. The swastika is an ornamental form of a cross, with each of its arms equal in length, protruding at right angles in a clockwise direction. It’s a twisting shape of interlocking right angled, four prong arms. Without considering the inner white spaces, the four black arms form a perfect square. The logo incorporates other elements like the white circle into which the swastika is centrally placed diagonally to form a diamond shape. White spaces between the interlocking arms form rectangles that are slightly wider than the width of the arms. The black swastika and white circle are centrally placed inside a bright red rectangle whose length is slightly longer than its height. This was the emblem of the National Socialist Workers Party (Nationalsozialisten) abbreviated Nazi.
This political logo was designed by none other than Adolf Hitler when he was put in charge of the fledgling party in 1920. Aware of the need to unite the party and nation around a strong visual symbol, Hitler sought out something that would resonate with the people. Germany was reeling from blows inflicted by war and badly needed reassurance. The answer came in an ancient good-luck insignia.
Until then, the swastika had existed for over five thousand years and was well-recognized as a good fortune symbol around the world. To be certain, it’s still a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions. To create a logo for the Nazi party, Hitler appropriated the swastika. Not only did disenfranchised Germans need good fortune going forward after the great war, they needed an easily recognizable symbol to rally around. Also refereed as the “hooked cross”, the swastika is believed to have been used in Neolithic Eurasia.
According to Nazi theory, the Aryan nomads of India had used the swastika in the Second Millennium B.C, and Nazis thought themselves to belong in that ancestry. It’s difficult to make the connection, but Hitler somehow decided the swastika had been eternally anti-Semitic. Elimination of Jews became the clarion cry, a means of achieving ‘racial hygiene’. Transforming a symbol of good luck into one of evil, Hitler projected frustrations of his country towards innocent victims.
Firstly, propaganda was calculated to woo unemployed workers. Economic woes of post war Germany were blamed on Jews. Whoever was responsible for economic hardships was Germany’s enemy and needed to be dealt with ruthlessly. Anti-Semitic notions quickly caught on among unemployed middle class workers. The Nazi logo elicited more hypnotic barbarity than WWI propaganda posters. Adrenalin was high among Hitler’s followers. The Nazi logo seemed to evoke a sense of power and direction. It was bloodbath for the perceived enemy, resulting in the slaughter of an estimated six million Jews!
In his book Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler himself summarizes both the swastika and the philosophy embodied in its composition and design. “In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the Nationalist idea, and in the swastika the vision of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.” Previously, the swastika was symbolic of the sun’s movement. A day is the space between sunrise and sunset, a period that provides new opportunities. In Hitler’s usage, the new opportunity was to destroy a perceived enemy in order for one ethnic community to achieve its economic goals.
The Nazi logo is arguably the most dreadful and nauseating symbol of the Twentieth Century. It’s impossible to look at it without conjuring up the dreadful holocaust of WWII. It should serve as a teaching aid on the power of symbols, of graphic design, and indeed of the printed page. Designers and artists should be aware of these realities and tread carefully to ensure artworks don’t evolve into devouring ogres.
“Adolf Hitler Biography Military Leader, Dictator (1889–1945).” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 16 Oct. 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.
Holocaust Memorial Council, 02 July 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.
“MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler: Volume 2, Chapter 7 – The Struggle with the Red Front.” MEIN KAMPF by Adolf Hitler: Volume 2, Chapter 7 – The Struggle with the Red Front. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.
“The Swastika: A Sign of Good Luck Becomes a Symbol of Evil.” Holocaust Teacher Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.