Hitler: Old Ideas, New Meanings Essay

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Hitler: Old Ideas, New Meanings

The second World War was a consequence of one man and his idealistic dream. Adolf Hitler strove to further the "Aryan" race at the expense of other people and cultures. However, for such an idealistic man, Hitler was fairly unoriginal. He borrowed the swastika, the main symbol used in the war to indicate Nazi rule, from ancient civilizations. Hitler also borrowed mythology from other cultures to promote his ideas.

The swastika was far from being Hitler's own invention. It originated in primitive cultures when people noticed that the big dipper rotated around the North Star. This rotation formed the pattern of a swastika when charted four times a year, that is, every thirteen weeks. The implication is that "the swastika may have been primarily and generally employed by primitive races as a sign for a year or cycle" (Nuttall,19). There were many cultures all over the ancient world using the swastika as a symbol. In Scandinavian countries it symbolized "the turning wheel which in the Bronze Age was connected with the god of the sky" (Davidson, 67). Thor, the god of the sky, drove his wagon across the heavens creating thunder and lightning (Gelling, 143). Thor is also associated with maintenance of the turning of the seasons (Davidson, 72). To honor him, ancient pagans decorated their swords and spears with the swastika (Gelling, 148-9). Different cultures obviously had different meanings attached to this symbol. A coin from Syracuse, now located in the British Museum Collection, had a swastika stamped on it. In the middle of the swastika was a human head. This was interpreted as "the image of a state and its single central ruler" (Nuttall, 459). Regardless of the symbolism of variations in th...

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...things one encounters, as unambiguous as their current meaning may seem to you.


Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Scandinavian Mythology. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd., 1969.

Gelling, Peter, and Hilda Ellis Davidson. The Chariot of the Sun, and Other Rites and Symbols of the Northern Bronze Age. New York: Praeger, 1969.

Gordon, Sarah. Hitler, Germans and the "Jewish Question." Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1984.

Homer. The Odyssey. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, sixth edition, volume one, New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1992.

Nuttall, Zelia. The Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilizations. Salem, Mass. : Salem Press, 1901.

Overy, R.J. The Nazi Economic Recovery 1932-1938. 2nd ed. Cambridge: University Press, 1996.

Poliakov, Leon. The Aryan Myth. London: Sussex University Press, 1974.

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