In a Hindu household, a new car, irrespective of the model, sports this symbol of prosperity with pride.
New houses, apartments, places of residence are anointed with this symbol of prosperity and abundance.
Any auspicious ritual of Hindus, across the world, does not begin without drawing this symbol.
So how has such a benedictory symbol as Swastika come to be associated with Hitler, Nazis and genocide?
If no one else, this question must have at least bothered millions of Hindus who would have definitely, at one point in time or another, had to defensively, almost apologetically, clarify the difference between their beloved Swastika and Hitler’s symbol.
Nobody seems to have questioned how could Hinduism, which accepts myriad ways of worship and spiritual goals, that emphasises connectedness to the extent of proclaiming that the entire world is our family, be even associated with such a Nazi symbol. Not only did anybody question it, but it is apparent that the world has been all too eager to promote this blatant ignorance.
In a recent instance, a News agency removed a picture of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley with a Swastika seen behind her at a Hindu temple in Delhi because, in their very words, ‘it was also used as a symbol by Nazi Germany’.
This post is an attempt to make people realise how such an incorrect and/ or motivated interpretation of the past can be a bane for billions in the present.
We begin with few questions that need to be answered at the very outset.
Why is Swastika considered a racist and detestable symbol in today’s western world?
It is because many people mistakenly think that Nazis used this symbol.
What was so bad about Nazis?
Nazis were anti-Semites who conducted genocide of 6 million Jews.
Where are the origins of Nazi antisemitism?
Of course, in the Bible!
Has anyone ever told you that? Read on.
Roots of Nazi Antisemitism: The Bible
Jews as God Killers
The New Testament, as we know it, is composed of 4 canonical Gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.
According to the Gospel of Mark, which is the oldest Gospel, Jesus Christ was crucified by Roman Governor Pontius Pilate at the instigation of a group of High-Priests who are called Sanhedrin .
But nowhere within the gospel of Mark are “all jews” seen as an outside group.
Nowhere in the gospel of Mark are Jews held responsible as a group for the “murder” of Christ.
In fact, it becomes clear in the earliest gospel that Christians were not yet differentiated from Jews as a group/religion. We can still see the entire episode as an intra Jewish struggle.
Now, let us see what later gospels have to say about “deicide” or murder of God.
In the Gospel of John, the word “Jews” as a group occurs in 63 instances . In 38 of them, the connation is negative and derogatory. In one instance, the Jewish scripture was referred to as “your Torah”’(John 8.17).
This clearly indicates that by the time of the Gospel of John, the separation between Christianity and Judaism has been complete(at least in the region where the author lived).
In the Gospel of John, the Jews are referred to as Children of Devil (John 8.44) and are collectively held responsible for deicide or “Murder of God”.
In the Gospel of Matthew (27.25), the Jews collectively say “his blood be upon us and our children”.
We can safely mark these passages as the origin of antisemitism.
This was the scriptural warrant for the denunciation of Jews for centuries as “God killers”. This had far-reaching consequences for centuries. Already in the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa denounced Jews as “Murderers of God and …Confederates of Devil”.
Pope Saint Gregory, I famously referred to Jews as “A Sanhedrin of Satans, criminals, enemies of God and of all that is decent and beautiful.
Violent Church antisemitism: Proto-Nazism in medieval Christendom
Hitler was not the first self-proclaimed Christian(*) who violently persecuted Jews. It was no surprise that anti-semitism assumed violent forms in the medieval age. Institutional persecution of Jews was the norm in Christian countries. The Medieval saint St. Louis encouraged Christians to thrust a good sword into the Jewish belly as far as the sword will go. Although this applied to Jews who ridiculed Christian beliefs, it was put into practice indiscriminately
Here are a few instances to illustrate this phenomenon.
During the Crusades, beginning in the 11th century, when Christian religious zeal reached epic levels, thousands of Jews on the Rhine and the Danube were massacred. Jews were accused of Kidnapping Christian Children (blood libel) and lynched by Christian mobs. In 1349, Jews in Strasbourg were accused of poisoning wells and 2000 Jews were burnt to death. Jews were often forcibly expelled from their countries by pious Christian rulers.
Here is a Christian painting depicting the burning of Jews.
The Vatican Church was again the pioneer of Proto-Nazism. Pope Innocent III of Vatican convoked the Fourth Council of the Lateran. He ordered Jews to wear circular badges and distinctive clothing. This was re-enacted in the Nazi holocaust of Jews.
- The English evangelists affiliated the hooked cross to swastika to hide the fact that Nazism originated in Christian Socialism.
Violent Protestant antisemitism
A good example of Christian antisemitism can be seen in the works of Martin Luther who is the founder of Protestant Christianity. He wrote a 65,000-word treatise named “on the Jews and their Lies”
In his treatise, he wrote that
1) Jews are a base, whoring, miserable and accursed people
2) Jewish temple is an incorrigible whore and an evil slut
3) Jews are a heavy burden, a plague, a
Pestilence, a sheer misfortune for our country
4) They are Murderers of God
5) Jews have been bloodthirsty bloodhounds and murderers of all Christendom
6) Devil brought Jews to Europe from Jerusalem
And so on
He advocated the following measures against Jews
Burndown Jewish synagogues and schools and warn people against them;
Refuse to let Jews own houses among Christians;
Jewish religious writings to be taken away;
Rabbis to be forbidden to preach;
Offer no protection to Jews on highways;
After his treatise, he advocated for the genocide of Jews. He wrote-
“We are at fault for not slaying them”
Luther quoted John 4.45 to support his claim that Jews were children of the Devil. The influence of Luther on Nazi antisemitism can be seen from the fact that Hitler considered himself “second Luther” .
Luther was perhaps the most influential person in the entire medieval world. In his own lifetime, protestant kingdoms were formed in his native German country which followed his instructions. Luther spoke a dialect of German which had minor importance. He translated Bible from Latin into his native dialect. Owing to his influence, this dialect has today become Standard German. In Nazi Germany of 1933, 65% of Germans followed Lutheran Protestant Christianity. 95% were Christians .
What was the influence of Luther’s antisemitism on Nazis? On Luther’s birthday (10th November 1938), Nazis went on a killing spree. They demolished 267 synagogues across Germany and Austria. The pogrom against Jews left 91 people killed and 30,000 men incarcerated in concentration camps. These attacks are seen by modern historians as the beginning of the Holocaust.
Martin Sasse, a Nazi Party member and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, a leading member of the Nazi German Christians, applauded the burnings of Jews and published a compendium of Martin Luther’s aforementioned treatise on Jews after this incident.
Most Nazis identified their mission with that of Martin Luther. Erich Koch was a Gauleiter (second highest Nazi Paramilitary rank). He was also the elected president of the Provincial Protestant Synod. He claimed that the Nazis fought with the spirit of Luther. Koch later played a leading role in the murder of thousands of Jews in deportation camps.
In his excellent research citing many such examples of leading Nazis, Professor Richard Steigmann of Kent State unity proves that Nazism originated in a Christian frame of reference and understood their movement as a Christian movement. As he shows, Church Historians retrospectively tried to portray Nazism as a non-Christian moment and undermined the Christian roots of its antisemitism.
In the words of leading Historian Jacob Katz “Modern anti-Semitism turned out to be a continuation of the premodern rejection of Judaism by Christianity”
It is thus clear that antisemitism had its origins in the canonical gospels and was put into practice by Christian priests, rulers and lay followers across centuries from Apostle John to the Nazis.
Thus far, we have looked into the origins of antisemitism.
What was Hitler’s party symbol and where did he find it?
It is a common misconception that Hitler used the Swastika symbol. But Hitler himself never used the word “Swastika” to refer to his symbol. He called it “Hooked Cross”(“Haken Kreuz”).
Hitler first saw the Hooked Cross symbol in a Christian monastery (Lambach Abbey) which he attended as a boy. He later adopted it as an emblem for his party. There is no evidence that he ever heard of the word “Swastika”. Hooked Cross had been a sacred symbol of Christianity since its inception in ancient days and it is very natural to find Hooked Cross symbols in old churches and chapels.
The hooked cross was seen as a Christian symbol in Nazi Germany.
From 1933 onwards, Catholic schoolchildren in Catholic schools of Nazi Germany were taught in their religious instruction about “the close affinity between Cross and Hooked Cross”.
Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung) members, often with the approval of their Protestant ministers, marched to worship in churches draped with the Hooked Cross.
Here is the image of the union of Cross and the Hooked Cross used by the Churches in the Nazi era.
Hooked cross had nothing to do either with Hinduism or Swastika. It has existed as an important symbol of Christendom since its very existence. It was found in early Christian Graves of Rome in the 2nd century CE.
This fresco from the Christian catacomb of Via Latina depicts Biblical prophet Moses crossing the red sea. Notice the Hooked cross symbol on the tunic of Moses.
Unfortunately, the hooked cross symbol was identified with Swastika and the antisemitism associated with the hooked cross has been falsely attributed to the name and symbol of the swastika.
What led to the false association of the Christian Hooked Cross with the Hindu Swastika?
If you were to go through the English translations of Mein Kampf (“My Struggle” an autobiography of Hitler”), you would find the mention of Swastika. Mein Kampf was translated into English by James Murphy, an English Christian Priest.
The English evangelists were opponents of Nazis and they tried to portray Hitler as a Pagan. The word Hooked Cross was conveniently translated as Swastika. When Hitler became extremely unpopular, the Evangelist lobby associated the Hooked Cross with Swastika to hide the fact that Nazism originated in Christian Socialism.
Yet, it can be easily seen that Hooked Cross is NOT swastika. The Nazi hooked-cross was generally tilted 45 degrees from the horizontal and always oriented in the “S” letter direction for their “socialism” whereas Swastika sits flat to the base.
On the left, in the picture above, you can see the symbol that all Indic people, irrespective of faiths, recognise as Swastika. A symbol that stands for the Sanskrit words Su Astu or let there be good, both literally and figuratively.
It is to be noted that Swastika has never been associated with violence and antisemitism.
On the contrary, swastika stands for peace and prosperity.
Swastika, in India, is also a symbol of extremely non-violent sects like Jainism whose core principles enjoin their followers not to hurt a fly.
Jews do not have a history of antisemitism experienced at the hands of Hindus.
This substantiates that the Swastika does not have a history of violence and antisemitism of hooked cross.
We hope you can see what has been done through a misleading sleight of hand. The Hakenkreuz or the Hooked Cross has been cunningly translated into Swastika and Hindus have been left to bear the cross of this distortion, both figuratively and literally.
Today, when you use Google translate to find out the English translation of the German word Hakenreuz, it gives Swastika instead of the Hooked Cross.
And if you were to search for Swastika, it gives Hakenkreuz.
An online miracle in translation has been performed that has made all traces of the Hooked Cross disappear from the Hakenreuz!
We cannot immediately undo the years of bigotry that has come our way through such dishonest tactics, but we can definitely ensure that the translation is corrected. A Twitter user @AbhinavAgarwal has suggested a way to get the translation right. Hope people take few minutes of their time and contribute towards correcting the translation. This is a good time to show what a billion united Indians can achieve.
- On the left side, choose ‘English’ and write ‘Swastika’ and on the right side choose ‘German’ for translation. It will show ‘Hakenkeuz’.
- On the bottom right , click on ‘suggest an edit’ and put the meaning as Swastik and click on ‘contribute’.
- Now on the left side choose ‘German’ and write ‘Hakenkreuz’ and on the right side choose ‘English’ for translation. It will show ‘swastika’.
- On the bottom right , click on suggest an edit and put the meaning as Hooked Cross and click on ‘contribute’.
All of us can right this wrong of Swastika demonisation by correcting the translation and raising awareness about Swastika’s centuries of association with welfare and prosperity.
And for anyone who invokes the Nazi symbol for the Swastika, send them to the Hooked Cross.
- Mark 15.1-15.15
- Reimund Bieringer and Didier Pollefeyt, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001 pp.61-82, p.64
- Ibid p.64
- Michael, R, Christianity, antisemitism and Holocaust, Palgrave Macmillan US 2006, PP.15
- Ibid PP.45
- Britannica Encyclopedia – https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lateran-Council-Roman-Catholicism
- Martin Luther, on the jews and their lies
- Ibid ,PP. 75
- Michael Berenbaum, Ed A Mosaic of victims 1990
- Richard Evans, The Third Reich In Power: Penguin, 2005
- Michael, R, Christianity, antisemitism and Holocaust, Palgrave Macmillan US 2006
 I Am Your Negro: Adolf Hitler, by Dead Writers Club, Ian Tinny
(*) In Mein Kampf, Hitler identifies himself as a Christian. There are some reports that Hitler was not a fan of some aspects of the Christian religion in private in his later life (however, he again became a hard-core Christian at the end of his life). Howsoever, that may be, it is clear that both Hitler and the Nazis publicly followed hard core Christianity. There is also no question that Nazis remained overwhelmingly protestant.
This article was first published on Swarajya.