Hitler Swastika Thrilled Ancient Sun Worshippers: Lewis Lapham

Widely spread throughout the world, the swastika has been around for at least 10,000 years as an auspicious symbol, often associated with the power of the sun. Hitler appropriated it as the official emblem of the Nazi Party on Aug. 7, 1920.

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In the 1870s, Volk movements began idealizing the racial purity of their Teutonic forebears and worshipping the sun, believing it was “the sole God of true Germans.”

At the same time, the swastika gained popularity after archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found multiple instances of the hooked cross when digging out Troy.

After World War I, anti-Semitic and militaristic groups adopted the swastika as their central symbol, until Hitler finally chose it for the Nazis.

When Charlie Chaplin -- as Adenoid Hynkel of Tomania -- skewered Hitler in his prescient 1940s film “The Great Dictator,” he sat underneath two black crosses inside a radiant circle. This represented the party of the “Sons and Daughters of the Double Cross.”

I spoke with Richard Cohen, author of “Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life,” on the following topics:

1. Sunspot Cycles

2. Eyes of Artists

3. Sovereign Symbolism

4. Solar Deities

Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life" by Richard Cohen. Close

The cover jacket of "Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life" by Richard Cohen.

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Source: Random House via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life" by Richard Cohen.

5. Getting Tan

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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