Black Sun (symbol)
The Black Sun (German: Schwarze Sonne) is a type of sun wheel (German: Sonnenrad) symbol originally employed in Nazi Germany and later by neo-Nazis. The symbol's design consists of twelve radial sig runes, similar to the symbols employed by the SS in their logo.[note 1] It first appeared in Nazi Germany as a design element in a castle at Wewelsburg remodeled and expanded by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, which he intended to be a center for the SS.
Whether the design had a name or held any particular significance among the SS remains unknown. Its association with the occult originates with a 1991 German novel, Die Schwarze Sonne von Tashi Lhunpo ("The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo"), by the pseudonymous author Russell McCloud. The book links the Wewelsburg mosaic with the neo-Nazi concept of the "Black Sun", invented by former SS officer Wilhelm Landig as a substitute for the Nazi swastika.
In 1933, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, acquired Wewelsburg, a castle near Paderborn, Germany. Himmler intended to make the structure into a center for the SS, and between 1936 and 1942, Himmler ordered the building expanded and rebuilt for ceremonial purposes. As a product of Himmler's remodeling, twelve dark-green radially overlaid sig runes, such as those employed in the logo of the SS, appear on the white marble floor of the structure's north tower, the Obergruppenführersaal, or "General's Hall".[note 1]
The intended significance of the image remains unknown. Some scholars have suggested that the artist may have found inspiration from motifs found on decorative Merovingian disks (Zierscheiben).[note 2]
In the late 20th century, the Black Sun symbol became widely used by neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, the far-right and white nationalists. The symbol often appears on extremist flags, t-shirts, posters, websites and in extremist publications associated with such groups. Modern far-right groups often refer to the symbol as the sun wheel or Sonnenrad.
The name "Black Sun" came into wider use after the publication of a 1991 occult thriller novel, Die Schwarze Sonne von Tashi Lhunpo (The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo), by the pseudonymous author Russell McCloud. The book links the Wewelsburg mosaic with the neo-Nazi concept of the "Black Sun", invented by former SS officer Wilhelm Landig as a substitute for the Nazi swastika and a symbol for a mystic energy source that was supposed to renew the Aryan race.
A number of far-right groups and individuals have utilised the symbol in their propaganda, including the Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant and Australian neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance, and the symbol was displayed by members of several extremist groups involved in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Along with other symbols from the Nazi era such as the Wolfsangel, the Sig Armanen rune, and the Totenkopf, the black sun is employed by some neo-Nazi adherents of Satanism. Scholar Chris Mathews writes:
The Black Sun motif is even less ambiguous. Though based on medieval German symbols, the Wewelsburg mosaic is a unique design commissioned specifically for Himmler, and its primary contemporary association is Nazi occultism, for which Nazi Satanic groups and esoteric neo-Nazis adopt it.
The Ukrainian Azov Regiment, founded in 2014, used the symbol as part of its logo. Political scientist Ivan Gomza wrote in Krytyka that the illiberal connotations of the symbol in that logo are lost on most people in Ukraine, and the logo rather has an association with "a successful fighting unit that protects Ukraine." During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO tweeted a photo of a female Ukrainian soldier for International Women's Day. The soldier wore a symbol on her uniform that "appears to be the black sun symbol". After receiving complaints from social media users, NATO removed the tweet and stated "The post was removed when we realised it contained a symbol that we could not verify as official".
In May 2022, a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York occurred. The shooter, a white supremacist, wore the Black Sun symbol on his body armor and placed it on the front of his digital manifesto. Pro-Kremlin Telegram channels and influencers subsequently spread misinformation linking the shooter with the Azov Regiment and the Ukrainian nation more broadly. However, the shooter makes no reference to the Azov Regiment in his manifesto, and Ukraine receives only a single mention in a section plagiarized from an earlier mass shooter's manifesto that predates the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke describes this "unique SS sun wheel design" as "a black disk surrounded by twelve radial sig-runes".
- According to Goodrick-Clarke, "[i]t has been suggested that this twelve-spoke sun wheel derives from decorative disks from the Merovingians of the early medieval period and are supposed to represent the visible sun or its passage through the months of the year. These disks were discussed in scholarly publications during the Third Reich and may well have served the Wewelsburg designers as a model."
- Grumke & Wagner (2002), p. 207.
- Goodrick-Clarke (2002), p. 125.
- Goodrick-Clarke (2002), p. 148.
- Strube (2015), p. 339.
- Goodrick-Clarke (2002), pp. 148–150.
- Luhn, Alec (30 August 2014). "Preparing for War With Ukraine's Fascist Defenders of Freedom". Foreign Policy.
- Grumke & Wagner (2002), p. 219.
- "Sonnenrad". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
- "Deconstructing the symbols and slogans spotted in Charlottesville". The Washington Post. 18 August 2017.
- Goodrick-Clarke (2002), p. 3.
- Porter, Tom (13 August 2017). "Who are the White Nationalist Groups that Demonstrated in Charlottesville?". Newsweek.
- "Flags and Other Symbols Used By Neo-Nazi Groups in Charlottesville". Hatewatch. Southern Poverty Law Center. 12 August 2017.
- Mathews (2009), p. 153.
- Is the Azov Battalion a terrorist organization as 40 US House Democrats claim? Quote: "The Azov Battalion included the Black Sun in its emblem in 2014-2015, however, removed it later."
- "Guerre en Ukraine : quatre questions sur le régiment Azov, ce bataillon ukrainien accusé de compter des néonazis dans ses rangs". Franceinfo (in French). 15 March 2022. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
These are old emblems of the paramilitary group, still used by some soldiers, says [INALCO researcher] Adrien Nonjon
- "Too Much Ado About Ukrainian Nationalists: the Azov Movement and the War in Ukraine, by Ivan Gomza". Krytyka. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
- O'Connor (2022).
- Lamoureux (2022).
- "Man who attempted to assassinate Argentine vice president has Nazi tattoo". Times of Israel. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas (2002). Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. ISBN 0-81-473124-4.
- Grumke, Thomas and Wagner, Bernd (2002). Handbuch Rechtsradikalismus: Personen – Organisationen – Netzwerke vom Neonazismus bis in die Mitte der Gesellschaft (in German). Opladen: Leske + Budrich. ISBN 978-3-81-003399-4.
- Lamoureux, Mack (16 March 2022). "Pro-Kremlin Influencers Are Using the Buffalo Shooting to Undermine Ukraine". Vice.
- Mathews, Chris (2009). Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-313-36639-0.
- O'Connor, Tom (9 March 2022). "NATO says it didn't notice Ukraine soldier's apparent Nazi symbol in tweet". Newsweek.
- Strube, Julian (2015). "Nazism and the Occult". In Partridge, Christopher (ed.). The Occult World. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-41-569596-1.
- Media related to Black Sun (symbol) at Wikimedia Commons