Third Reich Emblems - II - Der Parteiadler


all images (unless otherwise stated) reproduced with permission - and © Copyright Peter Crawford 2017

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When the NSDAP took as their insignia the eagle, it was not the adoption of a novel device.


When the Germanic Holy Roman Empire came about, they took the Roman eagle as their own in order to link the legacies and lineages so as to justify their claims of authority and identity.
Wappen Heiliges Römisches Reich
Coat of Arms Holy Roman Empire 
Specifically the double-headed Byzantine eagle was adopted, which became the emblem of Germany during the middle ages, and the bird continued to be the national insignia in either its single or double headed form.
Wappen des Königreichs Preußen
Kleines Reichswappen - 1871
The German adler here clearly retains a militaristic significance derived from the Roman aquila, for it gazes over its left shoulder, toward the sinister.
Wappen Deutsches Reich
(Weimarer Republik)

This seems to suggest, a preference of the adler for war, rather than peace.
Additionally the NSDAP changed the iconography to make the eagle sharper, darker, and more intimidating, but also placed in its talons a swastika encircled by a stylized oak wreath - (more relating to the swastika later).

This wreath of oak leaves from the sacred Teutonic tree that represents strength, glory, and supreme honor, as well as durability and immortality, due to the tree’s toughness. This wreath of strength is thus roughly the 20th century German equivalent of victory laurels, as both trees were associated with lightning.
Thus, with the wreath stressing triumph, the adler is being invoked here in its old significance as the herald of victory, and the destroyer of enemies and dark things (much like the lightning bolts that comprise the swastika).
The oak and the swastika together is in fact a traditional Germanic symbol, and in many instances the tree is placed “in the midst of flames”.
This serves to further augment the “Germanness” of the motif, since most of its parts, even in conjunction with one another, can be traced back to an earlier time of German history.
All of this together, as the 'Staatswappen' - (national emblem), signifies an exceedingly heavy emphasis on triumphal symbolism and ancient power (in addition to the other symbolic meanings) while simultaneously exhibiting both Roman and Germanic motifs.
The eagle is 'victory', the wreath is 'victory', and the swastika – the crossed thunderbolts – is 'victory' and power.
For the NSDAP the eagle symbolizes authority, but the eagle here is once again bearing the thunderbolts, as it did in antiquity, and it is not reluctant to implement them.
What is thus becoming very clear is the heavy emphasis the NSDAP is attempting to put on its ancient Roman imperial connections.

The classical tradition and German Romanticism did not merely confront each other within the rising spirit of national consciousness, they combined into a loose synthesis, or indeed co-existence, which was to determine the way Germans expressed their national spirit and its worship.
Indeed the NSDAP through the inclusion of both Roman and Germanic practices and symbols blended the history of both peoples in order to both exhibit nationalism and racial pride as well as a legacy of supremacy and conquest.
They managed to combine the two ancient cultures into one single ideology.
In his 1878 essay “Was ist Deutsch ?”, Richard Wagner concisely captures this phenomenon:
In their longing for ‘German grandeur’, Germans can commonly not yet dream of anything other than something similar to the restoration of the Roman Empire. In this, even the most good-natured German is seized by an unmistakable lust for domination and a craving for supreme power over other peoples.”
The fact that this was written some fifty years before the Nazi seizure of power attests to the long-term presence of this school of thought in the minds of many Germans.
Hitler and the Party legitimized such “lust for domination” by claiming a direct national genealogy that, according to them, can be traced back to the Roman Empire itself.
This is what Arther Moeller van den Bruck had on his agenda when he coined the term 'Dritte Reich' (Third Empire) to describe the National Socialist regime.
By claiming the NSDAP administration was the 'Third Reich', it implied that the Wilhelmine Empire of Bismark of 1871 was the 'Second Reich', which in turn implied that the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806 CE) was the 'First Reich', and before that, Charlemagne was crowned Roman Emperor in 800 CE.
The remainder of the years that existed between this crowning and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE were written off as a “mere suspension of Roman History”.
By this genealogy, the German leaders in 1933 “could claim long-standing connections to ancient Rome [as well as] a Roman influenced ancestry”.
Indeed Adolf Hitler remarked that “it was in Greece and Italy that the Germanic spirit found its first terrain favorable to its blossoming”, attempting to claim that the Greco-Roman and Germanic peoples were one and the same.
In addition to the possibility of the use of such a connection as a sort of legitimizing agent of imperialism, this huge effort to stress a classical lineage can in part also be explained by Hitler’s academic interest and obsession with antiquity.
Hitler’s fixation with all things Roman could be discerned even at the very beginning of his career, as in 1920 he “gave a long speech about the attempt of the Romans to expand their power throughout the whole world” (Losemann 223). He would come to call Rome the “greatest… political creation… of all”),claiming that it “never had its like succeeded in completely dominating all neighboring peoples! And no empire had spread so unified a civilization as Rome did”.
Thus, he considered Rome to be the “best teacher”, one whose example should clearly be followed.
Concerning Hitler’s ethnocentrism, it is particularly interesting to note that it is nearly always the Romans, and not the Spartans to whom Hitler refers when praising military discipline and expertise in the ancient world.
This implies that “Rome surpasses Sparta, which Hitler called the purest racial state in history.
This may be because unlike Rome, Sparta, as a small Grecian city state, was not imperialist in its policies; on the contrary it was one of the most isolationist-minded of the ancient poleis, which is not agreeable with Hitler’s agenda: to develop a “positive view… of the creation of a world empire” - for it seems rather clear that Hitler was primarily interested in Rome as a model for ruling a world empire.
With Hitler as the commander of the Third Reich and the chancellor of Germany, much of the Nazi party’s actions and undertakings were thus tinged with a classical style and manner - and this may be discerned in much of the iconography - and many of the emblems associated with the Third Reich.

for more information and images relating to ancient Rome and the Roman Empire got to:


The history and meaning of the swastika must be discussed, for since the eagle is never without the it, to fully comprehend the insignia in its entirety demands, first, a thorough investigation of the 'crux gammata'.
The word 'swastika' is of Sanskrit origin: su means 'well' and asti, 'being', where ka is a suffix, making the term essentially come to mean 'well-being'.
The Sanskrit word svasti also means 'fortune', and so these etymologies are not mutually exclusive as they both convey essentially the same idea.
Icelandic Swastika
Ancient Hyperborean Swastika
But the symbol itself is far older than the Sanskrit name for it, indeed the oldest swastika-like patterns are on objects made from mammoth-ivory, placing the artifacts at over ten thousand years old, many of which are female idols.
Similar swastika motifs are also found on four thousand year old female figures from Samarra in the Near East, as well as on the female face urns of Troy.
At these times being discussed, it is known that much art produced by mankind was not merely decorative, but intended to be magical – that is, to have functional effects.
Thus, due to the fact that the swastika was found almost exclusively on excessively fertile-looking female idols, it is clear that the symbol was one of fecundity.
The association of the swastika with fish – another ancient fertility symbol due to the creatures’ reproductive power – affirms this idea, as does its appearance on representations of sexual organs.
Ancient Greek Swastika
Samarran sepulchral pottery also depicts the swastika in conjunction with the snake, a long-standing symbol of rejuvenation, due to the serpents’ molting.
But this association brings a new layer to the symbols’ meaning: sepulchral pottery and the serpent associate the swastika with death, which when combined with its nature as a fecundity symbol causes it to signify rebirth and regeneration, and it should be noted that 'fecundity magic' and the 'death-cult' are intimately connected from the earliest times.
As another example, we have what is called the 'Ochre-grave culture', found as early as 3000 BCE in Russia, where red ochre was both used to prepare bodies for burial as well as cover the aforementioned female fertility idols, which were often placed in the graves.
The symbol appears similarly on Boeotian grave idols and Theban sepulchral pottery where it is framed by two snakes, and later on tombstones and grave-weapons, more explicitly associating it with death.
It is thus seen that over the long history of this Indo-European symbol, the swastika comes to signify not only fecundity and prosperity but also death and rebirth.
For the 'Aryans', however, the motif was also solar.
For the early Teutonic tribes, the swastika was a symbol of profound religious significance.
Nordic Swastika with Runes
Nordic Swastika
As an ancient Teutonic device, the swastika or sun-wheel promoted the quality of sun and light.
The solar association is not at all mutually exclusive with its previous position as a fecundity symbol, as many peoples recognize the sun as the primary life-giving body. 
Accordingly, the swastika, as a rotating sun, also signifies the continuous reaffirmation of life.
This significance is almost identical to the Hindu take on the symbol, where it is not only the sun, but also the wheel of birth and rebirth.
This almost identical significance expresses the continuity of meaning of this motif across wide stretches of time and land, but just as the swastika has been shown to represent the sun and fecundity, it was also seen on objects associated with death.
For the symbol is also easily interpreted to be intersecting lightning bolts, as it was a common representation of Thor’s hammer 'Mjolnir', which in Norse myth caused lightning strikes when the sky god would throw it earthward.
Images of Vishnu, the Hindu deity, often depict him with a chakra – a 'wheel of existence' –around one of his fingers, which is represented as a swastika.
The Hindu sky god Indra’s thunderbolt, Vajra, is also often crossed to form a 'sun wheel'. 
What can clearly be seen here is that the swastika is not merely 'celestial fire' in the form of the sun, but a universal representation of the sky god’s weapon – the ultimate weapon: the 'fiery thunderbolt'.
Thus as a symbol of life, the swastika is the sun, and as a symbol of death, it is lightning.
At a more profound level the swastika may be seen as representing the force at the beginning of creation - representing the 'cosmic whisk' causing the galaxies themselves to swirl into being.
To reinforce the argument of the swastika as representing both the sun and lightning, as well as to corroborate its old Teutonic roots, we should turn to the Germanic runic alphabets.
'S' Rune
In the Elder Futhark, the 'S' rune is called 'sowulo', and is written as a lightning bolt, signifying the sun, illumination, the vital quality of daylight, and power directed in a devastatingly straightforward way.
It resists the forces of death and heralds triumph of light over darkness, as the sun and lightning (and even the eagle) often do, as has been explained earlier.
In the Younger Futhark, the rune’s name becomes 'sol', and is very clearly still the sun, and is written identically.
By the time of the Middle Ages, the rune was called 'sauil' or 'sugil', and stressed the ascendancy of light over darkness, and was the power of the sun, both physically and spiritually.
By the modern era and the 'Armanen' runic system, the rune became 'sig', which is very close to the modern German 'sieg', “victory”, representing success, sun power, and conquering energy.
It is this rune that, when coupled with itself became the insignia of the 'Schutz-Staffel
Thus two sig runes, - two lightning bolts, crossed, as was aforementioned, - form a swastika, a major symbol of the NSDAP as a whole, and the two sig runes, adjacent, form the insignia of the party’s elite guard.
Perhaps it could be said that just as the eagles bore Jove’s thunderbolts, so did the SS bear Hitler’s.

for more information about the symbolism of the swastika go to:
After the NSDAP came to power, and established the Third Reich, the Parteiadler became the national emblem - taking its final form on the proclamation of the  Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation.
 Emblem of the
Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation

all images in this blog - (unless otherwise stated) reproduced with permission - and © Copyright Peter Crawford 2017
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for more information and images relating to German (and other) national emblems got to:
by the renowned heraldic artist
Peter Crawford

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