Top 10 Innocent Things Changed Forever (Because The Nazis Liked Them)

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It’s been almost 70 years since World War II. However, the Nazi party, and their symbols, remains fresh in the minds of many as allegories of pure evil.

Nazis and neo-Nazis are the easiest automatic villains left. If you see a Nazi or someone dressed as a Nazi, then you are trained to automatically assume evil. Interestingly, many things that we now associate with Nazism once had very different meanings. Usually, said meanings were shockingly innocent and peaceful. This list is to examine those things, as well as how Nazi Germany changed their meaning in popular culture to this day.

10. The Writings of Nietzsche

Elisabeth-nietzche

When one thinks of the Nazi movement, inevitably the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche will come up. The truth of the matter is, there was a Nietzsche who supported the superiority of Teutonic races, as well as the Nazi Party. However, that Nietzsche was Elizabeth, and not Friedrich.

Elisabeth was married to Bernhard Forster, a believer in Aryan superiority. Following the mental breakdown of her brother Friedrich, Elisabeth was left as the caretaker of both him and his work. Elisabeth, as the wife of an Aryan racialist is opt to do, enthusiastically supported the Nazi movement. The writings of her brother were edited, twisted, misinterpreted, and then used as validation of her views. When Elisabeth died in 1935, the funeral was attended by Hitler, as well as other prominent members of the Nazi party.

9. The Music of Wagner

Richard-Wagner

There is  a lot of debate as to whether or not Richard Wagner, in his waning years, became a follower of the racialist teachings of Arthur de Gobineau. It is not entirely known whether Wagner would have supported the Nazi movement either, as Wagner died in 1883. It is known however, that Hitler was a devoted fan of Wagner’s music and operas from a very early age. During Hitler’s reign in Germany, Wagner was celebrated in Germany, becoming in many ways the official soundtrack of Nazism. Wagner’s music has became so intertwined with Hitler and Nazism, that performing it in Israel is incredibly controversial to this day.

8. Goosestepping

north-korea-goosestep

The “goose step” was a marching style was originally developed in the 18th century by the Prussian commander Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Desau. The marching style was not exclusively used by just continental Europeans or Germans though. In the 19th century, the British army also used a variation of the step in military parades.

Studies show that group activities in unison will encourage more loyalty to the group. This may be why fascist leaders promoted marches like the goose step, or rhythmic chanting. The idea was to create a culture that promoted group ideals over your own. Either way, showing a group goose step is now a subtle thumbnail image to display the Nazi army. This hint was even used in the movie The Lion Kingwhen Scar surveyed the hyena troops.

7. The Word Aryan

aryan-symbol

The days, the word “Aryan” evokes images of white supremacy. Originally though, it was a Sanskrit word associated with the Indian Subcontinent. The Sanskrit definition of the word was “noble” or “civilized.” As a matter of fact, in ancient times, the subcontinent was known as “Aryavarta.”

Of course, not many people would think of that type of definition today. White supremacists  including the Nazis, used the word as part of a proposed “religion of the blood.” Thus, “Aryan” became associated with racial purification. To this day, the word Aryan will evoke images of Nazi death camps, and latter day Neo-Nazi white supremacy.

6. The Word Holocaust

holocaust-cloak

These days, the word holocaust has only one real meaning to most people, and it ins’t good. The Holocaust is the common term for the extermination of the Jewish race by Nazis, as part of their “Final Solution.”  However, in ancient Greek, holocaust means a “burnt offering” or “to be completely consumed by fire.” Typically, those being sacrificed by fire were placed in a Holocaust Cloak, (shown in wooden figurine form above,) such as the one worn by Andre The Giant in The Princess Bride.

Truthfully, Jews would prefer that the word “shoah” be used for what the Nazis did, “shoah” being the Hebrew word meaning “tragedy.” The thought is that referring to the attempted extermination of an entire race of people, as a burnt offering to a deity, is not a proper way to honor the people that died.

5. A Verse In The German National Anthem

deutschland-uber-alles

Deutschlandlied or “Das Lied der Deutschen” means “Song of the Germans,” and is the national anthem of  Germany. However, the first verse, which is often referred to as the “uber alles” verse, was the one sung during Hitler’s Germany. In order to disassociate themselves from Nazism, modern Germany moved straight to the third verse, disavowing the first entirely (the second verse was comparatively silly filler about wine and women, and was thus easily dismissed as well.)

It is actually illegal to sing the “uber alles” verse in Germany to this day. It is also considered to be an international faux pas to play the verse for victorious German teams in international competitions. So yes; due to Nazi association, an entire verse in the German national anthem is not sung in its own country.

4. Pink Triangles

pink-triangle

Before World War II, a pink triangle had no particular connotation. However, in Nazi Germany, pink triangles were used to identify homosexuals (mostly men) in Nazi concentration camps. Numbers vary, but there were likely over 50,000 men put into camps for being homosexual. The men were often experimented upon, and  frequently castrated.

In the early 1970’s, the pink triangle became a symbol of gay persecution, as well as gay pride. The symbol was also adopted by AIDS activists in the 1980’s. Today, the pink triangle is an international symbol of gay pride and AIDS awareness. However, it would probably still be unremarkable today, if not first associated with Nazi persecution.

3. The Name Adolf

people-being-named-adolph

The name Adolf was actually quite popular, as well as common, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The name is actually a compound derivation from the Old High German word “adal” or “athal,” meaning “noble” or “high,” and the word “wulf” meaning “wolf.” It is actually very close to Rudolf (which means “fame of the wolf.”) Quite the badass name; you’d think all of the other reindeer would have realized that before laughing at their red-nosed peer.

As far as Adolf goes, we can certainly see the appeal of a name that essentially translates to “Noble Wolf.” However, being associated with Hitler has, seemingly forever, demonized the meaning of the name. Even daring to name a child that invites massive international controversy. As a matter of fact, since World War II, only twenty babies have been born in Britain and given the name Adolf.

2. The Toothbrush Mustache

laurel-and-hardy-toothbrush-mustache

The “toothbrush mustache” is so associated with Hitler and the Nazi Party, that it is hard to even conceive that it might have been known for anything else. However, the style was first popularized by American and British sailors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reportedly, German women were very much against their men adopting this “American mustache.”

A younger Hitler actually sported a fuller mustache known as the Kaiserbart. Multiple theories have developed as to why Hitler shaved down to the “toothbrush.” He could have been simply mimicking a popular style of the time. However, Alexander Moritz Frey, who served with Hitler as a private, claimed that Hitler was ordered to shave his mustache from the full Kaiserbart to the thin toothbrush. The reasoning was so his gas mask would fit better. Whatever the reason, the toothbrush mustache is now forever associated with Adolf Hitler, simply because he wore it. Sporting the relatively innocent facial hair today is seen as support of Nazi Germany, and a major faux pas. Just ask Michael Jordan.

1. The Swastika

various-swastikas

The swastika symbol is literally thousands of years old, and comes from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “to be well.” The swastika, prior to Nazi Germany, was literally nothing more than a good luck charm, and there were actually several different proposed symbols for the Nazi party that didn’t feature it at all.

It was primarily eastern in origin; however, the symbol adorned hockey teams, was the symbol of the Finnish Air Force until 1945 (while flown against Nazi Germany,) and even adorned Jewish delis in New York at one point. Since World War II, the symbol has obviously become a flashpoint for controversy. In the East, the symbol is still used and revered. In the West, it is often associated with Nazism and Nazi paraphernalia.


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15 Comments

  1. Demotivation on

    Regarding #5 – You’re only half correct in this. The first verse of the “Deutschlandlied” is not banned, and it’s not illegal to sing it in Germany. Not anymore, that is. After WW2 the allied forces banned it for a while, but as early as 1949 that was history again.

    You are, however, very much correct in saying it’s a terrible faux pas to sing it. Germany’s national anthem sort-of-officially only consists of the third verse, and it DOES reek of nationalist pride to sing the first verse.

    (Not difficult to get the illegal-part wrong, though. Even a lot of Germans think it is verboten. 😉 )

  2. Quick fun fact: In Ontario Canada the city of Kitchener was once known as Berlin (due to it’s high German population) but was pressured to change it’s name because of the Nazis.
    A smaller town up north called Swastika fought against public pressure and as kept it’s name to this day.

  3. Hitler also liked King Kong.. And Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. Has that ruined them? And Hermann Goering liked works of art. Course not. just because a madman like Hitler likes things, doesn`t make them ruined.

    • Hitler allegedly also made some accurate colored drawings of his favourite Disney charakters. The pictures where presented in some tabloid years ago, but I wouldn’t bet on them being genuine.

  4. Wagner was a militant anti-Semite himself, so you can see his music in a bigger complex of the pre-Nazi school of thought. The music itself might be innocent, but he surely would have accepted the Nazis ideas of racial superiority.

  5. I’m not sure that I would list Wagner’s music as innocent in this case. He was himself a rather like-warm, by the book sort of anti-Semite, unlike his lover/wife, Cosima, who was the real thing.

    It is a back-handed tribute to Wagner’s central role in modern music that he is still regarded with such dislike; other, more virulent anti-Semites, such as Chopin, Richard Strauss, and Carl Orf (an actual, card-carrying Nazi) are performed without a thought.

    • Yeah, whatever, but it’s still just music. You can’t deny Wagner’s operas of their musical value even if he happened to be a Nazi (and that’s arguable).

      • Well, actually you can. There are many music fans who see his work as nothing more than kitschy historistic noise.
        And of course, you could also go with Mark Twain’s impression of a Wagner opera: “There was nothing in the present case which was an advantage over being skinned.”
        and
        “The banging and slamming and booming and crashing were something beyond belief. The racking and pitiliess pain of it remains stored up in my memory alongside the memory of the time that I had my teeth fixed”

  6. “Either way, showing a group goose step is now a subtle thumbnail image to display the Nazi army.”

    Are you just making your own expressions up and writing them down here now?

  7. Musical_Maniac on

    Everytime I see a Volks-Wagen, I think of Hitler. I call VWs Nazi Cars because the VW was promoted by Nazis when it was invented.

  8. Excellent list, just want to add a couple of lines in support of this article.

    Hindus, Buddhist, Jain religious rituals still use the Swastika symbol. It has been an integral part of these religious ceremonies for thousands of years & is still commonly used. I am a Hindu & once a gentleman of Jewish faith, came to our house, & was shocked to see the swastika signs, he must have thought us to be neo-nazis as well, but thankfully he got the point when described about the symbol in detail. Just because some mad man used this thousands of years old symbol in his propaganda, doesn’t mean we should not be using it any more. Swastika & its usage predates Nazism, even predates christianity. So we should accept it in its original form.

    Secondly, Aryan is a very common name in India, & no they have no connections with white supremacists or the Ku klux clans. So if next time you meet an Indian guy called Aryan, don’t get concerned ….

  9. Okay, okay, but the word gay was once a word for being happy and carefree , now its usage is now a dark, damnation of iniquity of sexual deviation and immoral behavior that is not recognized by religious bodies nor the Gospel. But that’s the truth.

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