The swastika is an ancient sun symbol, used in many cultures throughout history. If you see a swastika in a work any work made in the 1920s or earlier, the symbol has nothing to do with Nazi Germany. It's usually golden rather than black, often has arms pointing anti-clockwise in contrast to the clockwise Nazi swastika, and standing "straight", with one cross-arm vertical and the other horizontal, rather than standing on one corner like the Nazi one. Usually, but far from always, there are lots of variants. See the Real Life examples below for more details. Note on terminology:
- Swastika is the modern English word for the symbol facing either direction (卍 or 卐), a loanword based on the Sanskrit word for the 卐 symbol, "svastika" (which also has some other meanings). For reference, the Sanskrit for 卍 is "sauvastika".
- Manji is the Japanese word for the counterclockwise version of the symbol (卍). Japanese also has a few different words for the clockwise version (卐), most of which translate along the lines of "reverse manji". It comes from the Chinese character for either symbol, man (卍 or 卐)"manji" means "man symbol/letter/character".
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- YuYu Hakusho has a minor villain with a manji tattooed on his forehead. This was removed in the English anime dub, but kept in the English manga localization with an editorial note for explanation. This is lampshaded in Lanipator's Abridged Series. Yusuke calls the villain a skinhead, and when the villain reacts with wonderment, Yusuke asks him how he couldn't see that one coming, pointing that he is both bald and has a swastika on his forehead. It then gets a further twist, as the villain starts explaining at length how his swastika is not German but Buddhist, and Yusuke attacks him while he monologues, telling him afterwards that he was perfectly aware of the difference but needed a distraction.
- Manji of Blade of the Immortal has the swastika on the back of his clothes as a reference to immortality. In the original version, it's drawn in the "Nazi direction", but in the English translation it was flipped to the "Buddhist direction".
- In Bleach, Ichigo's bankai incorporates a swastika into the sword's guard. The swastika itself is used in writing the word "bankai"—卍解—making Zangetsu's release a kind of visual pun.
- In One Piece, a swastika was incorporated in the crest of the Whitebeard pirates. This was changed in the anime to crossbones in a + shape. The manga later Retconned the symbol to match.
- In Naruto, the Caged Bird seal is a swastika. It's left alone in the manga, but the anime changed it to an X.
- Early in Rurouni Kenshin, there's a Yakuza-like faction called the "Hishimanji". They wear armbands with the manji turned on one of its corners (yes, just like the Nazis), as well as having them printed in a few spots of their robes.
- There was a Swastika Laundry in Dublin who even painted it in black on a white roundel on their red trucks, adding "Since 1912" in 1940. They stayed in business until the '70s.
- The Coca-Cola company produced swastika watch fobs in the 1920's. They're somewhat rare and obscure collector's items today.
- Carlsberg beer formerly had a swastika emblem. At the brewery in Denmark, there is (or was in 1975) a life-size stone elephant resting one foot on a sphere adorned with a swastika.
- In The Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon is giving a speech at a conference. He shows part of an image of a swastika, everyone thinks about Nazis, then Langdon shows the complete image, with a clearly Buddhist context.
- In Kal Ho Naa Ho, Naina and Jennifer paint a swastika in the window of their restaurant in New York as part of its revamping. No one comments on this, and the new concept is a huge success.
- Subverted in One Night With The King, an adaptation of the Book of Esther. The villain Haman wears the good luck swastika millennia before the Nazis, yet also happens to be planning to exterminate the Jews.
- In Iron Sky, when the Moon Nazis attack, everyone thinks India is in league with them because the Indian ambassador to the UN happened to be wearing a ring with a swastika on it.
- In Dasepo Sonyo, a swastika can be seen in the background of a Buddhist class.
- One autobiography of the last emperor of Russia mentions the empress being very fond of the Swastika.
- In The Great Gatsby, the Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim operates out of the "Swastika Club" (presumably, like many older buildings, it has that design on it). There is some argument though that this wasn't an innocent usage, as Wolfsheim is something of an anti-Semitic caricature, the Nazi movement had already adopted it as their symbol by the time the novel was written, and Fitzgerald was fairly knowledgeable of white supremacist movements.
- UK editions of Rudyard Kipling's books published before the 1930s often have left-hand swastikas on the title pages.
- "Origin Story", by Dwight R. Decker, uses this trope; a magical being who's been away for the past century gets turned down when he tries to give a man the superpowers and identity of Captain Swastika (with big swastikas on his costume).
- Invoked in Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, where the hero, from a universe where World War II was fought entirely differently, knows no other form and can not understand why a demon in hell is wearing the ancient and honorable symbol of the fylfot. The reader, of course, gets enough clues to recognize a Ghostapo Hitler.
- Carl Sagan's book Comet recounts an instance during the filming of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage where the film crew were greeted with paper swastikas while filming in India during a festival. Several of the crew, including Sagan himself (who was Jewish), were briefly alarmed until they realized it was an example of this trope.
- One Nation Under Jupiter: Gottlieb gives a swastika necklace to Diagoras, calling it a symbol of Thor. Justified as the Nazis never existed in this timeline.
- One of the needle monster species in Eden Green looks like an 'X' when standing still; when rolling toward prey, its legs hinge, taking on the appearance of a dizzying swastika.
Live Action Television
- In a Milt Gross Count Screwloose comic done on November 2, 1930, a canoe with a thick-lined, red swastika is pictured in one of the panels.
- One of the Pok้mon trading card game cards, the Koga's Ninja Trick card, originally had the symbol on it in mirror image until people complained and it was altered.
- Both Ran and Yukari Yakumo from Perfect Cherry Blossom use a swastika-themed spellcard in their battles with you. Ran's version is Shikigami's Shot "Ultimate Buddhist" and Yukari's is Evil Spirits "Butterfly in the Zen Temple."
- Imperishable Night has Fujiwara no Mokou's Deathless "Xu Fu's Dimension" spellcard.
- This is set up purposefully in Epic Battle Fantasy 2. The Big Bad Lance is portrayed as a neo-Nazi intent on destroying the world to rebuild it. However, if one looks carefully at his uniform, his swastika is facing the other direction from the Nazi swastika to form the Buddhist symbol for peace, an appropriate reflection of his ultimate motives.
- The original The Legend Of Zelda has a dungeon shaped like a swastika, described as "manji" in the manual. Definitely a case of Values Dissonance.
- Appears in the seventh world of Namco's arcade game Phozon. A clockwise swastika appears in the world's second stage and a counter-clockwise swastika appears in the world's third stage.
- In Tengai Makyou II: Manjimaru, the title character's name is written with one.
- Appears as the crest of many Indian regions in Crusader Kings 2: Rajahs of India.
- Used for Deliberate Values Dissonance in the Alternate History timeline "Monarchy World" by Tony Jones, in which a swastika is used as the emblem of the United Nations-equivalent precisely because it is such a universally used symbol in many cultures and religions (see below).
- In Look to the West the swastika becomes thought of as an Etruscan symbol because it was found on an Etruscan artefact and then used as the symbol of a Tuscan-based radical movement inspired by the Etruscan civilisation as a result. In reality of course the Etruscans were just one of many cultures to use the symbol, but it's the one that got all the publicity.
- Gem fusion designs from Steven Universe are heavily inspired by Hinduism, and take other thematic elements from the religion. This is why the original animatic for the episode which introduced fusion, "Giant Woman", shows Opal arranging her four arms into the shape of a traditional Hindu swastika when summoning her weapon. The swastika, however, was not used in the final version, for obvious reasons.
- Here's a list of cultures and religions that have used the swastika.
- Hinduism: A representation of the god Ganesh, as an emblem of good fortune, to evoke "Shakti".
- Buddhism: As a representation of eternity.
- China and Japan: Eternity and the number 10,000. Also used in Japan (as well as in Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) to mark the locations of Buddhist temples on maps.
- Jainism: Even more prominent than in Buddhism or Hinduism; all holy books and temples must bear the swastika.
- Iran: A golden necklace of three swastikas at least three thousand years old was found.
- Ural Mountains: The Bashkir people feature the swastika prominently in their ancient iconography.
- Armenia: The swastika was prominent in medieval architecture, such as churches and fortresses, and also found in pre-Christian carvings. It was called an arevkhatch (sun cross).
- Ethiopia: The rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, an ancient town in northern Ethiopia, have swastika-shaped windows.
- Pre-Columbian America: The swastika has been found associated with cultures throughout North and South America, including the First Nations of Canada, the Navajo and Hopi of the southwestern United States, the Mississippian culture of the east and southeast US, and the Kuna people of Panama. Some of these are still in use today, though efforts are made to distance them from the Nazis.
- Ancient Grome: A symbol of eternal motion, representing a windmill or watermill. Typically not found alone, but rather as part of a repeating design.
- Celtic: Pre-Christian Celts used swastikas on their metalwork and stonework. They also occur as an incidental pattern within Knotwork, especially the four-cord style.
- Germans: Bore special importance in funerary symbols, possibly as an emblem of Thor.
- Illyria (South-eastern Europe): Represented the sun.
- Baltics: Pre-Christian. The two versions were called the fire cross and the thunder cross, and represented the thunder god Perkons and the sun.
- Slavic: Pre-Christian. Found in ornamentation, usually as a solar symbol.
- Sami (Arctic Europeans): A double cross or double axe is found on their drums, thought to represent the thunder god, a derivation of Thor.
- Numerous Cultures: As noted earlier with Celtic Knotwork, variants of the swastika pattern are easily generated within repeating patterns of lines and shapes. Associations both positive and negative aside, four pointed spirals make for eye-catching design elements, and so they can be discovered in tiled-pattern-based art forms ranging from Islamic geometric art to quilting. In addition to making for the occasional awkward antique wallpaper or tile floor, it is also the source of some occasional Everyone Is Satan in Hell drama when a modern designer fails to notice, say, something unusual about the pattern on that Hanukkah giftwrap they're making.
- The Raelians hold an annual "take back the swastika" day to try to rehabilitate the public's perception of the swastika. Given that they're a UFO cult, not many notice and even fewer care.
- Reclaim the Swastika is a website dedicated to try to rehabilitate the public's perception of the swastika.
- The Finnish Air Force used to use a swastika because that was the personal lucky emblem of Count Eric von Rosen, the man who donated their first plane. Confusing when Finland was in an 'enemy of my enemy' style alliance with Nazi Germany during WWII (and operated American and Dutch planes).
- The swastika is square and blue, making it easily distinguishable from the Nazi one. A variant with long central arms was used by the army. While the air force now uses a roundel, both types of swastikas are still quietly found on flags and medals.
- The official Finnish order Order of the White Rose of Finland had swastikas as part of its collar until 1963, where they were replaced with fir crosses.
- There is an indirect connection between the Finnish swastika and the Nazis. The benefactor of he Finnish air force, the Swedish Count von Rosen, was a good friend of Hermann Goering when the latter was in exile in Sweden in 1920's. Indeed, Goering would go on to marry the count's niece. It is possible that the Nazi use of swastika drew some inspiration from this relationship.
- The Isle of Man (in the British Isles) has a time-honoured triskelion three human legs in armor, conjoined in a swastika-like arrangement as its national emblem◊.
- The US 45th division (formed from Arizona National Guard) had a yellow swastika on red as its patch until 1939. This was replaced by a gold Thunderbird. Interestingly, Bill Mauldin (who was in the division, from when it was still National Guard) didn't make a cartoon about it.
- A wartime division raised in the south-west also wore the Native American swastika prominently on both arms. In early 1942 they were on the point of boarding ship on the East Coast to arrive in Great Britain as one of the first large American contingents. At the last minute it was suggested that eighteen thousand Americans arriving in Britain wearing swastika arm patches was not likely to win hearts and minds. The Thunderbird patches were provided as a tactful alternative.
- The original highway signs for Arizona had swastikas in an arrowhead at the bottom◊ up until 1942, when it was changed for obvious reasons.
- Red October era Russia: the swastika was used as a symbol on the Provisional Government money (kerenki). The Bolsheviks also considered adopting it but ultimately rejected it in favor of the famous red star. Ironically, the Nazi party chose it to have a strong, identifiable symbol which would counter the Communists'.
- Occult: The "Sign of the Mourning of Isis" in some Golden Dawn derived groups involves taking up a swastika posture.
- The CU(Credit Union) Service Center has a swastika that is tilted at a 45 degree angle (like the Nazi swastika), but has curved spokes that come to a point (unlike the Nazi swastika)◊ as its symbol.
- The Coronado Naval Amphibious Base in San Diego Bay features a swastika-shaped building... and, just across the street to the southwest, two bomber-shaped buildings 'flying' towards it. (This one was built in WWII.) This caused a controversy in 2007, when someone spotted the swastika with Google Earth but missed the bombers.
- Carlsberg Beer originally had a swastika as part of their trademark. Its use was gradually phased out during the thirties and the swastika finally disappeared completely in 1945, however it can still be seen on the old brewery buildings as well as on some of the museums and churches in Copenhagen that the brewery's philanthropic owner Carl Jacobsen paid for.
- The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (famous as the inspiration for the Overlook in The Shining), built in 1907, featured ornamental swastikas in the woodwork. These have since been covered up with wooden plaques, but it's not too hard to point them out.
- The Japanese martial art of Shorinji Kempo, originally used the Buddhist swastika as its emblem. It's now been replaced by a pair of intertwining circles, which are interpreted as spinning swastikas. The Buddhist swastika, however, is still retained in the Shorinji Kempo headquarters in Shikoku island, Japan.
- Dutch martial artist Gerard Gordeau has a swastika tattooed on his torso, which along his bald head and his status as one of the most infamous dirty fighters in the world has gained him some serious heat among Mixed Martial Arts fans. However, the swastika itself is actually part of a bigger tattoo which contains Buddhist art, and Gordeau himself is rumored to have Jewish ancestry, so he is far from being a Nazi skinhead.
- The workers who built The Spirit of St. Louis painted a swastika inside of the propeller's nose for luck along with their signatures. The sign next to the nose cone in its display at the Smithsonian explains that this use of the symbol was Native-American-influenced, but given Charles Lindbergh's later historynote , it can be seen as Harsher in Hindsight.
- Corsair LED PC case fans, due to placement of 4 LED strips across the curved fan arms, end up creating a very Swastika-like pattern◊ on the front of your computer when running, complete with the enclosing circle. "PC Masterrace" jokes aside, it's probably unintentional on Corsair's part.