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View Full Version : Is the iron cross a racist symbol?


Giant_Spongess
03-08-2006, 11:29 PM
Iron cross pic (http://people.sinclair.edu/thomasmartin/knights/Iron%20Cross%202.jpg).

I know that it is an old German heraldic symbol, and was used by Hitler. But does it have the same overtones as the swastika? I haven't really seen it that much, so I have a pretty neutral reaction, but looking about on the web sends mixed messages (most of the sites I looked at are about the history, some are about neo-nazis, and I know I've seen it on skater-punk clothing).

So what does it signify to you?

HPL
03-08-2006, 11:35 PM
To me it signifies the German Empire, particulary during WW1, and it's military in particular.

It was also a german medal that was like a good conduct medal. Everyone got one so it was pretty worthless.

Which is pretty neutral in my eyes.

The fact that the Modern German miltiary still uses the Iron Cross as their symbol speaks volumes, because they are generally very finicky about anything that seems nazi. Germany is a country that censors or bans video games and movies that have Swastikas in them, regardless of context.

Giant_Spongess
03-09-2006, 12:04 AM
I did not know that. One learns new things every day!

Loach
03-09-2006, 12:31 AM
To me it walks a fine line, not for what it is but how it is used. Some groups use it as a replacement for the swastika. They can get away with wearing it when wearing a swastika would cause problems.

Giant_Spongess
03-09-2006, 01:00 AM
The thing is, I bought a lovely vinyl jacket which has an iron cross armband. Now, I mostly bought it for my own private...uh, entertainment, but I was wondering whether it would be prudent to wear in public. Fortunately, the armband is removable (it looks pretty dumb anyway, since it's way larger around than my arm and just kind of flops around). So anyway, I didn't want to commit some sort of incredibly tasteless faux pas, and teh internets just weren't alleviating my concern.

Johnny L.A.
03-09-2006, 01:19 AM
The fact that the Modern German miltiary still uses the Iron Cross as their symbol speaks volumes...
For example (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a3/Panavia_tornado.jpg) (see below cockpit).

Rigamarole
03-09-2006, 02:26 AM
Now, I mostly bought it for my own private...uh, entertainment

Now that sounds interesting. You could work the whole German military motif into your "entertainment".

That reminds me of the Nazi boots I have. I really love them, but so rarely get a chance to wear them.

*sighs wistfully*

Giant_Spongess
03-09-2006, 03:02 AM
Now that sounds interesting. You could work the whole German military motif into your "entertainment".

That reminds me of the Nazi boots I have. I really love them, but so rarely get a chance to wear them.

*sighs wistfully*
All I'm lacking is a proper military hat. So hard to find something that matches red and black vinyl that isn't Russian.

ouryL
03-09-2006, 04:33 AM
Don't it symbolize the older Second Reich?

Silentgoldfish
03-09-2006, 06:50 AM
It's always brought to my mind WW1 rather than 2, and as I'm a lot more sympathetic to Germany re WW1 (I think they were on fairly even moral ground with everyone else involved in the conflict) so it's a fairly neutral symbol for me.

Mr. Miskatonic
03-09-2006, 07:16 AM
Don't it symbolize the older Second Reich?

I always thought it was the symbol of the Tuetonic Knights, adapted by the German Nation.

Hypno-Toad
03-09-2006, 09:00 AM
I always thought it was the symbol of the Tuetonic Knights, adapted by the German Nation.

This is much closer to the case. The Iron Cross is seen as representing "Germany" as distinct from "Nazi." As mentioned earlier, it is prevalent in WWI imagery. Like all other symbols in german culture, the nazis co-opted the iron cross to serve their own ends. Thus, one can find iron crosses with swatikas and SS-runes super-imposed on them. Germany has had a devil of a time trying to reclaim this pre-nazi symbol because of the memories of old vets and the actions of the neo-nazis. I myself find it sort of weird to see an iron cross on the side of a modern jet fighter because I'm a history buff who's used to seeing it in WWII imagery.

DocCathode
03-09-2006, 09:46 AM
So what does it signify to you?

As a Jew, my emotional reaction is that it symbolizes WWI just like the other posters said. Besides knowing this intelectually, Yosemite Sam wore an Iron Cross and had one painted on his plane in a cartoon in which he portrayed a spike-helmeted WWI German.

I think that if I saw an Iron Cross on a vinyl 'uniform', I would assume that the wearer was attempting to evoke the the well organized hierarchy and strict discipline often associated with Germany, while carefully avoiding Nazi symbols.

Sal Ammoniac
03-09-2006, 10:07 AM
I don't know. I seem to be in the minority in considering it a bit dicey. It's no swastika (few things are), but still, is any evocation of German militarism completely fun and harmless? Plus, it's not like the iron cross symbol is unknown to racist skinheads. I could only find one semi-lame cite (http://worldthreats.com/russia_former_ussr/Xenophobia%20In%20Russia.htm), though I didn't spend much time looking. (I know, I know, that's not exactly an Iron Cross, but still.)

Silentgoldfish
03-09-2006, 10:18 AM
Well again, it's evocative of German militarism in and pre WW1, which was hardly unique to the country. It was pretty much a bit of bad luck (and being on the losing side) that cast them in the bad guy role in a war that was characterised by an extremely large helping of stupidity at the command level.

Hence it not really carrying more of a racist bent than any of the military insignia from other countries of the time.

DocCathode
03-09-2006, 10:22 AM
Sal Ammoniac

What aspect of German history haven't neo-Nazis tried to claim?

I sometimes see people wearing Sig runes, not because they're neo-Nazis, but because they worship the Norse/Teutonic gods. Many are quite pissed that they can no longer display the symbols of Wotan's lightning or Donnar's hammer without being mistaken for racists.

I have a friend who has an Indian bracelet of amber and onyx beads. She is afraid to wear it in public because each bead has a swastika painted on it. I'm fairly certain that she is not a Nazi. The fact that her skin is roughly the color of a cup of Swiss Miss cocoa is a big clue. She can easily pass as an Indian immigrant. The swastika has been used in India for milennia. She can't wear the bracelet because the Nazis tainted that symbol.

Like many American Jews, my last name is German. My father's side of the family is Austrian. One of my fondest childhood memories is the time Dad took me to a German heritage festival. I looked at German art and traditional crafts. We listened to German music. I ate sausage until I threw up. I've got Hebrew National knockwurst in the freezer right now. Mom, Dad, and Bubby spoke Yiddish- a dialect of German. My father loves opera and folk music. His collection includes plenty of German music.

Germany is a part of my heritage. Germany is much more than Nazis. I refuse to let the Nazis take away my heritage.

BTW-

Giant Spongess If you're going to make a post about your sick desire to wear some perverse uniform for sexual gratification, you could at least have the decency to provide pictures.

Johnny L.A.
03-09-2006, 10:24 AM
I don't know. I seem to be in the minority in considering it a bit dicey.
I agree.

It depends on the context. If I saw someone with an Iron Cross on the back of his car, I'd assume he likes Harley Davidsons and the cross says 'Orange County Cycles' or whatever in it. If I saw it on the back of a denim jacket, I'd also think 'Harley'. If I saw it being worn by a skinhead, I'd definitely see it as a racist symbol.

If I were to see a woman wearing one on an armband on a vinyl jacket? Armbands definitely remind me of the Nazis. That there's an iron cross on the armband instead of a swastika wouldn't really matter to me. It's the armband that does it. I'd probably assume she was either into B&D and wanted people to know it, or that she was on her way to a costume party.

tiltypig
03-09-2006, 10:56 AM
Just wanted to pop in and say that when I was working in video game localization, due to Germany's ban on Nazi material, any of our games that were set in WWII had to be retooled to use the iron cross rather than the swastika--so in Germany, it definitely signifies Germany rather than the Third Reich.

Giant_Spongess
03-09-2006, 12:05 PM
Giant Spongess If you're going to make a post about your sick desire to wear some perverse uniform for sexual gratification, you could at least have the decency to provide pictures.
Bwahahahaa...okay.

The aforementioned armband. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v246/kemspit/other%20crap/vinyl4.jpg)
A better shot. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v246/kemspit/other%20crap/vinyl11.jpg)


The thing is too long for my dinky webcam to capture its true glory.

DocCathode
03-09-2006, 12:10 PM
That outfit makes it pretty clear that you're roleplaying an authoritarian archetype that comes with a cool accent, rather than endorsing any kind of bigotry. If you carry the riding crop shown in the background, there can be no mistaking your intentions.

I am however, horribly disappointed that the pictures are worksafe.

kellner
03-09-2006, 12:32 PM
That outfit makes it pretty clear that you're roleplaying an authoritarian archetype that comes with a cool accent, rather than endorsing any kind of bigotry. If you carry the riding crop shown in the background, there can be no mistaking your intentions.I agree. I have to admit I was bit sceptical before I had seen the outfit. I mean, almost 200-year-old symbol of military tradition created for the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon or not, had you worn a plain red cloth armband with an iron cross in a white circle together with your everday outfit at work, you would have raised a few eyebrows. This way I don't see a problem.

BMalion
03-09-2006, 12:32 PM
Don't ever wear it in public.

I belong to a Sherlock Holmes society and we have a quiz each year where the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes are beautiful handcrafted medals made by a jewelrysmith who makes jewellry for movies and tv, she's quite good, for example she made all the crowns and tiara's for the Princess Diary movies, the pirate coin medallion for Pirates of the Carribean and so forth.

Well, we had a quiz based on a Holmes story that takes place right before WW1, in which Sherlock defeats a german spy ring. The medal was an iron cross with a bee perched on top, to symbolize the beekeeper (Holme's nickname) triumphant over Kaiser Germany. OK so far?

I've been to several banquets with up to 300 fellow Holmesians, people who love history and accuracy and nit picking details, peole who have a sense of humor, people who love costumes, and yet, I've given up on the idea of ever wearing it again because I've been cussed at, stared at, glared at and admonished for wearing a "nazi" medal.

Oh well.

NurseCarmen
03-09-2006, 12:57 PM
When I was a kid, in the early seventies, I had some felt wall hangings of the Peanuts gang. Snoopy was flying his dog house. His doghouse had an Iron Cross on it.

Now I always thought that was wierd, because in my book, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, Snoopy was trying to shoot the plain with the Iron Cross down.

I've always thought of Snoopy when I saw the Iron Cross. And by association, the Red Baron. (I know it should be the other way around)

Now I'll always think of Giant_Spongess. From what little I can see, hubba hubba...

Loach
03-09-2006, 01:16 PM
Sometimes symbols get hijacked. Sometimes they are seen to mean something different than you want them to. The swastika meant something different for a thousand years, now it doesn't. The iron cross is now used widely by neo-nazis, skinheads, The Aryan Nation and violent outlaw biker gangs. Do you think they do it out of love for the Kaiser or the Gemnan unification in the 1800s? It doesn't have the same hatred and emotion attached to it as the swastika but be prepared for some dirty looks.

Sal Ammoniac
03-09-2006, 01:27 PM
Sal Ammoniac

What aspect of German history haven't neo-Nazis tried to claim?

Willy Brandt?

But anyway, I think the neo-Nazis have been a little too successful in coopting the Iron Cross for me to be comfortable with it as part of street attire. Of course, your subculture matters and all that, and people can generally fill in the blanks, but still. The other thing is that the Iron Cross looks a lot like other symbols of neofascist and racist groups -- for example, the Klan's (http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan), or the Russian example I cited earlier.

And here, just to reinforce the Nazi link, is a picture of Hermann Goering wearing not just one, but two (http://pzg.biz/goering-pic.jpg) (or maybe three?) Iron Crosses.

MrJackboots
03-09-2006, 01:27 PM
That reminds me of the Nazi boots I have. I really love them, but so rarely get a chance to wear them.

Why? A good pair of boots is a good pair of boots. I didn't get my nickname by leaving them in the closet all the time, y'know. I don't catch any flak for it.

Uvula Donor
03-09-2006, 01:28 PM
Just a nitpick:

The symbol you're referring to is a Maltese Cross. The Iron Cross is a German military decoration which incorporates a Maltese Cross design, first established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded in 1813. It was awarded during the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War, and the First and Second World Wars.

DocCathode
03-09-2006, 01:40 PM
And here, just to reinforce the Nazi link, is a picture of Hermann Goering wearing not just one, but two (http://pzg.biz/goering-pic.jpg) (or maybe three?) Iron Crosses.

So, cabinet member poses wearing medals he probably didn't earn? Big shock there.

What do you think the odds are that he was wearing them to show a link between the Kaizer (the second reich) and the third?

Hitler and other top nazis were also fond of Wagner. Wagner expressed his own racist views in Parcifal.

My father loves the Ring cycle.

Why not take the symbols back from the nazis?

tomndebb
03-09-2006, 01:50 PM
It depends on the context. If I saw someone with an Iron Cross on the back of his car, I'd assume he likes Harley Davidsons and the cross says 'Orange County Cycles' or whatever in it. If I saw it on the back of a denim jacket, I'd also think 'Harley'. If I saw it being worn by a skinhead, I'd definitely see it as a racist symbol. Actually, here is the crux of the confusion.

German military "stuff" was popular among early biker clubs as a sign of flouting conventions. Skinheads picked up the "flouting conventions" aspect of the symbolism that then acquired Nazi overtones primarily because they are displayed by skinheads.

There are, of course, people (noted by BMalion) who simply equate German militarism with the Nazis, (primarily because either they or their parents encountered German militarism under the Nazi banner), but the Cross Formé is not a Nazi symbol.

Jackknifed Juggernaut
03-09-2006, 01:59 PM
When I was younger, I would get upset at my mother when she used to paint swastikas on our sidewalk. Did I mention that we lived (and still live) in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood? And an uncle of mine has a tattoo of a swastika on his arm. I made sure that I never went to the beach with him.

When I asked my mother to stop painting these symbols during Indian/Hindu holidays, she would get upset at me. I asked her to please consider how offended many of our neighbors would be as they walked by. Even my father agreed with me at the time.

But today, I completely agree with what my mom. We can't help it if others use our symbols for purposes that we don't agree with. We don't see the symbol that way. This symbol has been part of Indian culture for centuries. Should we allow others to steal it from us, and worse, to use it for purposes that are completely opposite to what we believe in? (Same concept as: If we stop displaying the symbol, the terrorists have already won!) For a while, I'd still get upset when she displayed the swastika. It was embarrassing. But one comment she made stayed in my head and finally converted me to her way of thinking:

"If Hitler had used the cross as the Nazi symbol (instead of the swastika), would all the crosses displayed at churches come down?"

Sal Ammoniac
03-09-2006, 02:00 PM
Hitler and other top nazis were also fond of Wagner. Wagner expressed his own racist views in Parcifal.

My father loves the Ring cycle.

Why not take the symbols back from the nazis?

Actually, Wagner is hated by a lot of Jews, and not just because the Nazis were fond of him. He was so anti-semitic that he took a break from composing at one point in order to create anti-Jewish diatribes. In fact, there was an unspoken rule in Israel against playing Wagner that lasted until fairly recently. That said, Wagner was a composer of genius, and if you can dissociate his music from his person, you can get something worth keeping. With the Iron Cross, I don't know -- maybe there's something of value there, but even stripping out the Nazi associations, you still have the suggestion of German militarism -- the Rape of Belgium and all that.

And whether Goering earned his Iron Crosses or not, the point is you kind of expect to see them on his chest. The evocation of Naziism is pretty strong to me, as I think it is to many others.

Loach
03-09-2006, 02:36 PM
hijack- I'm not an expert on German military decorations but I do know that Goering was a war hero before there was a Nazi party. He was a highly decorated pilot who took over for Richtofen when he died. He earned many of his medals during WWI. Hitler needed a well known war hero on his side when he was starting out and Goering fit the bill. Not saying he may not have pinned a few extra medals on when he became head of the German military.

kellner
03-09-2006, 03:11 PM
Just a nitpick:

The symbol you're referring to is a Maltese Cross. The Iron Cross is a German military decoration which incorporates a Maltese Cross design, first established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded in 1813.Shouldn't the outer sides of the bars of a Maltese cross be angled inward like this? It's true that the name comes from the decoration, but for a long time it has also been used for the specific design influenced by the "Tatzenkreuz" (whatever that is in English) of the Teutonic Order.
And here, just to reinforce the Nazi link, is a picture of Hermann Goering wearing not just one, but two (or maybe three?) Iron Crosses.The third one is the far more prestigious "Pour le Mérite" that he won in WWI. He also won two classes of the iron cross in WWI and a few more in WWII. It may be debatable whether he deserved his WWII awards, but as the highest ranking soldier he was certainly eligible.

tomndebb
03-09-2006, 08:29 PM
Just a nitpick:

The symbol you're referring to is a Maltese Cross. The Iron Cross is a German military decoration which incorporates a Maltese Cross design, first established by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and first awarded in 1813. It was awarded during the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War, and the First and Second World Wars.
Actually, there were at least three separate awards that were popularly called the "Iron Cross." The only one that actually used a Maltese Cross was the Pour le Merite (ironically in French) that was also known as the Blue Max.

The other two "Iron Cross" medals were both based on the Cross Formé, which is the image depicted in the OP's link.

Larry Mudd
03-09-2006, 08:58 PM
German military "stuff" was popular among early biker clubs as a sign of flouting conventions.Was it really rooted in nonconformism? I have always been given to believe that it was because early motorcycle clubs had a predominantly WWII-veteran membership, and that the German helmets, medals, and other accoutrements were war trophies -- and for the generations that followed, just an established part of biker chic.

Oh, and Giant_Spongess? Hot. Totally.

HPL
03-09-2006, 11:26 PM
Hitler and other top nazis were also fond of Wagner. Wagner expressed his own racist views in Parcifal.


Could you elaborate? It's been a while, so I don't remember the racist stuff in Parcifal.

I do remember thinking that Albrich in the ring cycle seemed like he was supposed to be stereotypical jew.

tomndebb
03-09-2006, 11:31 PM
Was it really rooted in nonconformism? I have always been given to believe that it was because early motorcycle clubs had a predominantly WWII-veteran membership, and that the German helmets, medals, and other accoutrements were war trophies -- and for the generations that followed, just an established part of biker chic.That is a possibility. GusNSpot has proferred a similar theory.

I suspect that there was no single actual source. Biker clubs and gangs predated WWII, and there were "outlaw" gangs soon after the war. It is entirely possible that there were different reasons why different groups chose to display the same emblems. Note, however, that while Japanese battle flags were displayed as trophies, only German helmets and medals were worn as ornamentation. (An argument against this point would be the fact that the Japanese rarely awarded medals, so it was difficult to wear them, but one does not encounter Japanese helmets, belts, insignia, etc. worn in the late 1940s--early 1950s in the way that one often finds German paraphenalia.) Similarly, I cannot recall ever encountering clothing or medals from the Italian Army. And, as the biker culture really took off in the 1950s, it is notable that there was no similar practice of wearing captured North Korean or Chinese paraphenalia.

I am sure that many guys wore captured paraphenalia either as trophies or to honor fallen buddies, but I suspect that greater volume of such memorabilia worn by the generation of bikers a few years too young to have participated in WWII was chosen deliberately from German sources as presenting an image of toughness and a disregard for polite society.

Certainly, by the 1960s, aspiring "outlaw" bikers were using German memorabilia much more as a statement of anti-social tendencies than to "honor" fathers or older brothers who may have actually captured it.

Northern Piper
03-09-2006, 11:54 PM
The thing is too long for my dinky webcam to capture its true glory.That's odd - it's usually the guys who use that line. :p

Rigamarole
03-10-2006, 01:44 AM
Bwahahahaa...okay.

The aforementioned armband. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v246/kemspit/other%20crap/vinyl4.jpg)
A better shot. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v246/kemspit/other%20crap/vinyl11.jpg)


The thing is too long for my dinky webcam to capture its true glory.

Oh my. Oh my.

I'm really missing that "true glory" right about now.

cerberus
03-10-2006, 02:07 AM
The German cross predates Hitler, and is an established German military symbol. The runes and swatiska were, however, symbols of the NAZI movement. It makes sense that the German military would keep the cross whilst discarding the runes and swastiska, as an act of repudiating the NAZI stuff.

The fact the cretins misuse or hijack the symbol is not relevant: the correct response is eduction of the mis-led.

BMalion
03-10-2006, 08:39 AM
Was it really rooted in nonconformism? I have always been given to believe that it was because early motorcycle clubs had a predominantly WWII-veteran membership, and that the German helmets, medals, and other accoutrements were war trophies -- and for the generations that followed, just an established part of biker chic.


Like these guys? (http://beachpartymoviemusic.com/images/Img238.jpg)

:D

Sal Ammoniac
03-10-2006, 09:45 AM
The fact the cretins misuse or hijack the symbol is not relevant: the correct response is eduction of the mis-led.
I have to say, I don't think Giant_Spongess is looking to go around wearing her jacket and lecturing people on the history and iconography of the Iron Cross.

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