Photo Of The Day

Photo: Shorpy

Photo: Shorpy

Ku-Klux-Klan Air

March 18, 1922. “Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan about to take off with literature which was scattered over the suburbs of the city.” The date coincides with a Klan parade through Washington’s Virginia suburbs.

I notice the guy at second right appears to have a bullet hole right through the emblem over his heart – perhaps he inherited his costume from the previous wearer.

It does seem appropriate that there was a swastika on the plane in this picture, and it seems pretty ironic, but I think it was just a coincidence. The symbol has been around for thousands of years and didn’t become unmistakably associated with the Nazi party, especially not in America, until a few years later.

The Swastika is an ancient symbol that seems to appear in many cultures including Native American cultures as diverse as the Navajo and Penobscot Indian tribes. Not to mention being found in India. In fact the Swastika was a popular symbol of good luck for early aviators, which is probably the context in which it is seen here.

The Swastika was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika?comes from the Sanskrit?svastika, which means ?good fortune? or ?well-being.” The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.

The symbol experienced resurgence in the late nineteenth century, following extensive archeological work such as that of the famous archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a ?significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.?

In the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe. It had numerous meanings, the most common being a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness. However, the work of Schliemann soon was taken up by?v?lkisch movements, for whom the swastika was a symbol of ?Aryan identity? and German nationalist pride

This conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people is likely one of the main reasons why the Nazi party formally adopted the swastika or?Hakenkreuz?(Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920.

The Nazi party, however, was not the only party to use the swastika in Germany. After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially ?pure? state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.

In?Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: ?I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.?

The swastika would become the most recognizable icon of Nazi propaganda, appearing on the flag referred to by Hitler in?Mein Kampf?as well as on election posters, arm bands, medallions, and badges for military and other organizations. A potent symbol intended to elicit pride among Aryans, the swastika also struck terror into Jews and others deemed enemies of Nazi Germany.

Matilde Moisant, the second woman to get her pilot?s license, wore a swastika pendant on her 1912 uniform for good luck. This was a common practice among early aviators and test pilots. Although the swastika is generally associated with an awful time, its original meaning is still an important symbol in many cultures, so it?s important to understand that it was a positive symbol for most of its life.