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The man who brought the swastika to Germany, and how the Nazis stole it

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Great article except the conclusion, while condemning white supremacists is ironically very “Western supremacist”. While a little minority of world population still have a bad image of the swastika, hundreds of million of Asians or Blacks or American “Indians” have no problem with it, and on the contrary proudly wear it or pray in front of it in temples.


When archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann traveled to Ithaca, Greece in 1868, one goal was foremost in his mind: discovering the ancient city of Troy using Homer’s Iliad. The epic poem was widely believed to be no more than a myth, but Schliemann was convinced otherwise. For him, it was a map to the hidden location of ancient cities.

Over the next several years the German businessman, who made his fortune in trading raw materials for ammunition production, tramped around the Mediterranean. Schliemann took Homer’s advice on everything from local customs to treating physical maladies. Trained at the Sorbonne, he used Homer’s verses to identify what he thought were the epic’s real-world locations. “One of his greatest strengths is that he had a genuine historical interest. What he wanted was to uncover the Homeric world, to know whether it existed, whether the Trojan war happened,” writes classics scholar D.F. Easton. “But here also is a weakness. He was not very good at separating fact from interpretation.”

It wasn’t until 1871 that Schliemann achieved his dream. The discovery catapulted him to fame, and with his fame came a burst of interest in all that he uncovered. The intrepid archaeologist found his Homeric city, but he also found something else: the swastika, a symbol that would be manipulated to shape world history.

Schliemann found his epic city—and the swastika—on the Aegean cost of Turkey. There, he continued the excavations started by British archaeologist Frank Calvert at a site known as Hisarlik mound. Schliemann’s methods were brutal—he used crowbars and battering rams to excavate—but effective. He quickly realized the site held seven different layers from societies going back thousands of years. Schliemann had found Troy—and the remains of civilizations coming before and after it. And on shards of pottery and sculpture throughout the layers, he found at least 1,800 variations on the same symbol: spindle-whorls, or swastikas.

He would go on to see the swastika everywhere, from Tibet to Paraguay to the Gold Coast of Africa. And as Schliemann’s exploits grew more famous, and archaeological discoveries became a way of creating a narrative of national identity, the swastika grew more prominent. It exploded in popularity as a symbol of good fortune, appearing on Coca-Cola products, Boy Scouts’ and Girls’ Club materials and even American military uniforms, reports the BBC. But as it rose to fame, the swastika became tied into a much more volatile movement: a wave of nationalism spreading across Germany.


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