Significance of swastika imprinted on a bottle?

7/31/2012 • Ask Mr. History

Hi, I have question about a swastika imprinted on a bottle. The Carlsberg bottle has a swastika on both the porcelain stopper and on the bottom of the bottle along with the number 39. My question is … did the Germans make Denmark use the swastika or did they do it for their own survival after Germany invaded their country? Thanks for your help and looking forward to hearing any information you can give me.

Paul M. Rahne

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Dear Mr. Rahne,

Among the longest-lasting legacies of Nazism is the residual stain they left on the swastika, which up until 1933 represented life, prosperity and good fortune in various cultures around the world. When the Carlsberg brewing company expanded, J.C. Jacobsen adopted a 12-pointed star logo for his labels, while Carl Jacobsen adopted a swastika, sometimes with four dots within its arms and sometimes not, as the logo for "Ny Carlsberg" ("New Carlsberg") beer—a reference to the purity of its ingredients. After 1906 the two were often combined, with the swastika within the star. By 1940, however, the rise of Nazi Germany and its perverted interpretation of "purity" had led Carlsberg to abandon the swastika permanently—and the subsequent German occupation pretty much assured that it would not be re-adopted.

Another "casualty" of Nazism’s rise was the emblem of the 45th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit whose members came from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Given its regional heritage, the division adopted a yellow swastika—a good luck symbol among southwestern Indians—on a red square, representing Spanish colors. As war loomed, however, the insignia was dropped for several months while ideas for a replacement were proposed, until in 1939 the swastika was replaced by a yellow thunderbird.

To give a third example, Finland’s air force, the Suomi Ilmavoimat, adopted a blue swastika on a white disk, based on the good luck amulet of Swedish volunteer pilot Count Erik von Rosen, in 1918 (a full 15 years before Adolf Hitler came to power), changing it to a white-blue-white roundel only after its conditional capitulation to the Soviet Union in September 1944. Although it fought as a cobelligerent with the Axis, Finland was a parliamentary nation and its armed forces, whose ranks included communists and Jews, clearly don’t meet Nazi criteria.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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