© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Book Thief

The Book Thief


by Markus Zusak

Adolph Hitler, The Swastika, and The Nazi Flag

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Maybe The Most Terrifying Symbols Ever?

You know these symbols already, and they probably fill you with dread. The swastika—that spider-looking little pinwheel—and the swastika-emblazoned Nazi flag are some of the most potent, and potently horrifying, symbols around.

Hitler and the Nazi Party used mass communication, like radio, film, and print, to involve the German people in carrying out the Holocaust. To get the job done, Hitler employed a Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Hitler, reproduced in photos, film, and radio broadcasts, becomes a symbol of power and leadership for those who follow him, and a symbol of horror and terror for his targets:

The world talked it over. Newspaper headlines reveled in it. The Führer's voice roared from German radios. We will not give up. We will not rest. We will be victorious. Our time has come. (12.6-8)

He also ruined a certain style of mustache forever.

Through the reproduction of his image, his voice, and his symbols—the Swastika and the Nazi flag— Hitler becomes an omnipresent force for everybody in Germany. These are the symbols by which the people are enlisted to support Hitler, and they are backed up by some of the most horrific actions you've heard of. They are, ultimately, symbols of fear, irrational prejudice, and terror.

Today, the swastika, the symbol featured in the Nazi flag, has come to symbolize Hitler and the Holocaust and Nazism, but this wasn't always so. The word "swastika" comes from Sanskrit (an ancient language of India) and means "good fortune" (Source). The symbol itself is over five thousand years old. Due to its misuse by Hitler, though, the swastika will be only associated with evil for a loong time... if not forever.

Bonus symbol: did you know that Nazi officers actually wore skulls on their uniforms? We're not making that up. How blatantly evil is that?! Check out a hilarious skit that lampoons this image.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...