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Lost in Mistranslation: Why the Hindu Swastika is nothing like the German Hakenkreuz

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Lost in Mistranslation: Why the Hindu Swastika is nothing like the German Hakenkreuz
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Nazi Germany had two famous symbols – the Balkenkreuz and the Hakenkreuz. A combination of “kreuz” meaning cross and “balken” which means beam or bar, the Balkenkreuz is a German military emblem originally based on the cross of the Christian Teutonic Knights. (1) Always painted in black with white flanks, it appears in two versions in Nazi Germany: as a cross with parallel-edged limbs, based on the Greek Cross, and with concave limbs, based on the Maltese Cross. (2)

While the Balkenkreuz was a purely military insignia, the Hakenkreuz, which means a hooked or crooked cross – because its arms are tilted 45 degrees – was a political symbol. In 1920, Adolf Hitler adopted the Hakenkreuz as a German national emblem and as the central element in the party flag of the National Socialist Party (or the Nazi Party as the English derisively called it). By 1945, the symbol had become associated with brutality, racism and genocide.

But here’s where the hypocrisy starts. The current German military, the Bundeswehr, continues to use the Balkenkreuz as a symbol; the only difference being instead of black it is grey with blue flanks. Since World War II the Balkenkreuz has become the biker’s cross of rebellion (3), the surfer’s cross of free spirits (4) and can be found in fashion and jewellery. Magically, this symbol of German militarism has overcome its strong association with Nazism. (Plus, millions of churches worldwide proudly flaunt the cross.)

While the Balkenkreuz gets away with murder, the Hindu Swastika is crucified by Christianised Westerners who falsely equate it with the Hakenkreuz. The fact is Hitler never used the word Swastika to refer to his symbol. The German leader was familiar with the hooked cross early in his life at a Christian monastery. He had seen it each day as a boy when he attended the Benedictine monastery school in Lambach, Austria. (5)

Mein Kampf: Deliberate Mistranslation

Hitler wrote his autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf (My Struggle) in two volumes, in 1925 and 1926. In the German original (6) the very first mention of the word Hakenkreuz is in Chapter 7 where the German leader talks about how he came up with an emblem for the Nazi Party. Nowhere in Mein Kampf does Hitler use the word Swastika.

So how did the Swastika become synonymous with Hitler’s Hakenkreuz? The credit for this linguistic fraud goes to Irish Catholic priest James Vincent Murphy, who in 1939 published the first complete English translations of Mein Kampf. (7)

These extracts – and their translations – from Chapter 7 illustrate how Murphy wrongly and intentionally used “Swastika” where Hitler used “Hakenkreuz”.

1. Dennoch mußte ich die zahllosen Entwürfe, die damals aus den Kreisen der jungen Bewegung einliefen, und die meistens das Hakenkreuz in die alte Fahne hineingezeichnet hatten, ausnahmslos ablehnen.

“Accordingly, I had to discard all the innumerable suggestions and designs which had been proposed for the new movement, among which were many that had incorporated the swastika into the old colours.”

2. Tatsächlich hat ein Zahnarzt aus Starnberg auch einen gar nicht schlechten Entwurf geliefert, der übrigens dem meinen ziemlich nahekam, nur den einen Fehler hatte, daß das Hakenkreuz mit gebogenen Haken in eine weiße Scheibe hineinkomponiert war.

“As a matter of fact, a dental surgeon from Starnberg submitted a good design very similar to mine, with only one mistake, in that his swastika with curved corners was set upon a white background.”

3. Ich selbst hatte unterdes nach unzähligen Versuchen eine endgültige Form niedergelegt; eine Fahne aus rotem Grundtuch mit einer weißen Scheibe und in deren Mitte ein schwarzes Hakenkreuz. Nach langen Versuchen fand ich auch ein bestimmtes Verhältnis zwischen der Größe der Fahne und der Größe der weißen Scheibe sowie der Form und Stärke des Hakenkreuzes.

“After innumerable trials, I decided upon a final form – a flag of red material with a white disc bearing in its centre a black swastika. After many trials, I obtained the correct proportions between the dimensions of the flag and of the white central disc, as well as that of the swastika. And this is how it has remained ever since.

4. In gleichem Sinne wurden nun sofort Armbinden für die Ordnungsmannschaften in Auftrag gegeben, und zwar eine rote Binde, auf der sich ebenfalls die weiße Scheibe mit schwarzem Hakenkreuz befindet.

“At the same time, we immediately ordered the corresponding armlets for our squad of men who kept order at meetings, armlets of red material, a central white disc with the black swastika upon it.”

5. Als nationale Sozialisten sehen wir in unserer Flagge unser Programm. Im R o t sehen wir den sozialen Gedanken der Bewegung, im Weiß den nationalistischen, im Hakenkreuz die Mission des Kampfes für den Sieg des arischen Menschen und zugleich mit ihm auch den Sieg des Gedankens der schaffenden Arbeit, die selbst ewig antisemitisch war und antisemitisch sein wird.

“We National Socialists regarded our flag as being the embodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us – the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is in itself and always will be anti-Semitic.”

6. Das Bürgertum starrte daher den rot dekorierten und mit flatternden Hakenkreuzfahnen geschmückten Wagen mit offenen Mäulern nach, während in den äußeren Vierteln sich auch zahllose geballte Fäuste erhoben, deren Besitzer ersichtlich wutentbrannt schienen über die neueste “Provokation des Proletariats”.

“The bourgeoisie stared at the red decorated and decorated with fluttering swastika flags with open mouths while in the outer quarters there were also countless clenched fists, the owners of which seemed evidently furious at this latest ‘provocation of the proletariat’.”

As you can see, Hitler used the word “Hakenkreuz” as many as seven times and Swastika zero times. In fact, in the final para above, the English translator has entirely deleted the sentence in which Hitler uses Hakenkreuzfahnen or “swastika flags”. This is nothing less than a literary forgery.

Catholic Fraud

Like many members of the Christian clergy, Murphy too seems to have been an admirer of the Nazis. Mein Kampf is full of hate speech against non-Anglo Saxons, with special hatred reserved for Jews and Slavs (Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and other East Europeans). Hitler unequivocally declares his intentions to eliminate Jews and Slavs from the face of the earth in order to create lebensraum or living space for Germans.

And yet, in the preface to the translation, Murphy describes Mein Kampf as an “extraordinary work” that was written under “emotional stress”. He attempts to whitewash the German leader’s hate speech that constitutes the bulk of the book, saying, “Hitler has declared that his acts and public statements constitute a partial revision of his book and are to be taken as such.” There is not a single criticism of Hitler’s plan to murder all Jews and Slavs if he came to power. But then again, it was Hitler’s hatred of Jews that endeared him to many Christians like Murphy.

Murphy’s apologists claim the Swastika is the only literal translation of the Hakenkreuz. But this argument has no legs. The Catholic priest was into linguistic trickery – while mistranslating the Hakenkreuz as the Swastika, he leaves alone several other German words as they are because according to him, they have no exact equivalents.

For instance, he lets the word Weltanschauung, which means “Outlook-on-the World” stand in its original form very often. “We have no one English word to convey the same meaning as the German word, and it would have burdened the text too much if I were to use a circumlocution each time the word occurs.” (8)

Another word he has often left standing in the original is völkisch. “The basic word here is Volk, which is sometimes translated as People; but the German word, Volk, means the whole body of the people without any distinction of class or caste.” (9)

You get the point – the Catholic priest was nothing less than a charlatan.

Christian Forerunners of Hitler

It is well known that Christianity was in bed with National Socialism. Not only did many European Christians wholeheartedly agree with Hitler’s Jewish genocide, but they also cheered him all the way to the gas chambers. As far as these radical Christians were concerned, the Jews carried the “original sin” of killing Jesus and thus lynching Jews was not a sinful act. This hatred of Jews was drilled into Europeans from childhood onwards – at home, in schools and most insidiously in the churches where the clergy heaped scorn on Jews for more than 18 centuries. (10)

Reformers like Martin Luther (1483-1546) advocated the genocide of Jews. “Luther’s writings incited violence against Jews for the next half-millennium; this culminated in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1933, pro-Nazis in the Lutheran Church formed the German Christian’s Faith Movement. This virulently anti-Semitic movement adhered to the Nazi doctrine of a German super race and the inferiority of all other races, especially the Jews. (11)

It was this accumulated hatred driven by the Christian church that culminated in the Holocaust that led to the murder of six million Jews by Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, Croats, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians.

No less that the Pope gave his okay to the Holocaust. In fact, in pursuit of absolute power, Pope Pius XII helped Hitler destroy German Catholic political opposition, betrayed the Jews of Europe, and sealed a deeply cynical pact with the German dictator. (12)

Hiding Christian-Nazi Connections

World War II exploded in Christianity’s face. The whole world was now able to see the Hitlerite links of the clergy and ordinary Christians. It is this sordid connection that the West has tried to suppress. There’s evidence of the conspiracy to hide Christianity’s links with the Nazis. The New York Times’s first article on Adolf Hitler on November 21, 1922, exposes the fact that the word Swastika was not in use in Germany during the Hitler years. Referring to Hitler’s cronies, NYT journalist Cyril Brown wrote, “His followers are named Hakenkreuzler” and “Hitler’s Hakenkreuz movement is essentially urban in character.” (13)

According to American authors, Jon Robins and Ian Tinny: “The NYT article uses a form of Hakenkreuz four times in the article and never uses the term swastika. The NYT article never explains the term Hakenkreuz nor Hakenkreuzler; was that because the term was well-known in 1922? Or did the NYT not want readers to know why Hitler’s socialists used that nickname?”

Robins and Tinny explain that Hakenkreuz means “hooked cross” because for Hitler’s socialists it was a type of cross and was used to represent crossed “S” for “Socialist”. The misnomer swastika was substituted for the Hakenkreuz to hide German socialism’s origin in American Christian Socialism.

“Current policy at the NYT is to libel a foreign symbol (the swastika) in order to conceal the truth about what the German socialists called their symbol (Hakenkreuz or hooked cross.” It is related to the NYT’s current policy to conceal the USA’s Pledge of Allegiance as the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior. The pledge continues to be the origin of similar behaviour even though the gesture was changed to help the NYT hide America’s past.”

Robins and Tinny add, “The revealing aspect of Brown’s 1922 NYT article is that the terms “Nazi” and Swastika do not appear in the lead paragraphs (because the ‘Nazis’ did not call themselves ‘Nazis’ and they did not call their talisman a ‘swastika’, and the New York Times had not launched its current policy of masking those facts, and its current policy of hiding the fact that Hitler’s supporters called themselves ‘Socialists’ and called their insignia the ‘Hakenkreuz’). After identifying Hitler’s fans as ‘Hakenkreuzlers’ and the ‘Hakenkreuz movement’, the NYT referred to the Hakenkreuz as an ‘anti-Semitic swastika cross’ without explanation (implying that it is a type of cross and therefore Christian and therefore anti-Semitic?).”

American author Dorothy Waring, who visited Nazi Germany, mentions the word Hakenkreuz 18 times in her circa 1932 book ‘Hitlerism – Iron Fist in Germany’. Describing Hitler’s hate fests, his rallies, she says, “Thousands flocked to his standard – the Hakenkreuz – the ancient anti-Semitic cross in a colour scheme of red-white-black in memory of the colours of the old army.” (14)

There are just two mentions of the swastika in the book and they appear to be the publishers’ attempts to describe the insignia to American readers. But the publishers get it totally wrong perhaps because they have no clue what a swastika is: “A cross of equal arms with rectangular continuations all clockwise.”

Waring points out that in 1924, Gottfried Feder, Hitler’s mentor who provided the “germ idea” for the National Socialist Party, laid out the new German Weltanschauung:

“Our storm banners wave before our ranks. Always young, beaming and brilliant, the Hakenkreuz, symbol of life awakening again, comes before our eyes.”

“We are the army of the Hakenkreuz

Wave the red banners high,

We shall bring the German workers

To the road of a new liberty!” (15)

Waring provides another interesting nugget: “The women of the party are organised as the “Red Hakenkreuz.” (16)

And she observes: “The Hakenkreuz is seen everywhere – pennants, neck-tie pins, watch-chains,

charms, flags, posters, etc.” (17) And that Hakenkreuzle is the definitive word for Hitlerite.

You get the picture – Hitler’s Germany was smothered in the Hakenkreuz, not in the Swastika.

Military Markings

Military historians usually cite primary sources. In his book ‘German Aircraft Markings 1939-1945’, British author K.A. Merrick has used illustrations of Luftwaffe (German Air Force) drawings and posters showing the use of the word Hakenkreuz. Again, nowhere in the book does he use the word Swastika.

“On the port side a stylised National Socialist Party flag composed of a black Hakenkreuz within a white disc on a red background, to starboard a simple horizontal tricolour of black, white and red….Wherever practicable the Hakenkreuz marking was centred on the midpoint between fin leading edge and rudder trailing edge….” (18)

Merrick adds: “The reader is reminded that the Hakenkreuz marking identified a political party and was not a national marking.”

Conclusion

To the Hindus, the Swastika is a beloved and cherished symbol that represents the antiquity of their religion. In Sanskrit, the word Swastika is a combination of ‘su’ (good) and ‘asti’ (to exist). Translated as “all is well” the Swastika is a symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune. (19)

The Swastika is often seen on Hindu homes, businesses, cars, temples and places of religious significance. But many of us have at some point or the other scribbled the Swastika or the – equally significant symbol – Aum on our school notebooks and even examination answer booklets in the hope of drawing some good luck. The Swastika is in our DNA.

However, Christian elements in the West in cahoots with their leftist media have done a propaganda coup that any KGB, Mossad or CIA agent would be proud of. They have taken a beautiful symbol of goodness and tied it to arguably the second most evil empire (after the British Empire) in history. This cabal needs to be fought and defeated because the Swastika is an ancient Indo-European symbol that is an inalienable aspect of the ancient tradition of not just India, but Japan, Ukraine, Ireland, England and dozens of other countries. In fact, the oldest Swastikas found have been in Ukraine and India – both over 11,000 years old. (20)

The concluding, Part II, of this story will go into how the Swastika can be reinstated to its rightful place as a global symbol of wellbeing.

References

1. Brittanica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Teutonic-Order

2. Flags of the World, https://fotw.info/flags/vxt-dv-b.html#balkcross

3. Bikerring Shop, https://www.bikerringshop.com/blogs/news/understanding-the-biker-culture-crosses

4. Time, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,899184,00.html

5. History Place, http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/party.htm

6. Mein Kampf, Vol I & II, https://mk.christogenea.org/_files/Mein_Kampf_German.pdf

7. James Murphy, Mein Kampf, English Translation, Preface https://ia801604.us.archive.org/9/items/HitlerAdolfMeinKampfVolumeIAndIIEN1939525P./Hitler%2C%20Adolf%20-%20Mein%20Kampf%20-%20Volume%20I%20and%20II%20%28EN%2C%201939%2C%20525%20p.%29.pdf

8. James Murphy, Mein Kampf, English Translation, Preface https://ia801604.us.archive.org/9/items/HitlerAdolfMeinKampfVolumeIAndIIEN1939525P./Hitler%2C%20Adolf%20-%20Mein%20Kampf%20-%20Volume%20I%20and%20II%20%28EN%2C%201939%2C%20525%20p.%29.pdf

9. James Murphy, Mein Kampf, English Translation, Preface

https://ia801604.us.archive.org/9/items/HitlerAdolfMeinKampfVolumeIAndIIEN1939525P./Hitler%2C%20Adolf%20-%20Mein%20Kampf%20-%20Volume%20I%20and%20II%20%28EN%2C%201939%2C%20525%20p.%29.pdf

10. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, https://www.ushmm.org/research/about-the-mandel-center/initiatives/ethics-religion-holocaust/articles-and-resources/christian-persecution-of-jews-over-the-centuries/christian-persecution-of-jews-over-the-centuries

11. Moment Mag, https://momentmag.com/martin-luthers-anti-semitic-legacy-500-years-later/

12. Vanity Fair, https://www.vanityfair.com/style/1999/10/pope-pius-xii-199910

13. Ian Tinny, Dead Writers Club & Micky Barnetti, Adolf Hitler – European Tour, page 144

14. Dorothy Waring, Hitlerism – Iron Fist in Germany, page 17

15. Dorothy Waring, Hitlerism – Iron Fist in Germany, page 59

16. Dorothy Waring, Hitlerism – Iron Fist in Germany, page 75

17. Dorothy Waring, Hitlerism – Iron Fist in Germany, page 76

18. K.A. Merrick, German Aircraft Markings 1939-1945, page 13

19. Hindu American, https://www.hinduamerican.org/blog/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-swastika/

20. Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Swastika-is-pre-Aryan-dates-back-11000-years/articleshow/53090079.cms

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Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter-terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.