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Esoteric insignia of the Schutzstaffel

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The esoteric insignia of the Schutzstaffel (known in German as the SS-Runen) were used from the 1920s to 1945 on Schutzstaffel (SS) flags, uniforms and other items as symbols of various aspects of Nazi ideology and Germanic mysticism. They also represented virtues seen as desirable in SS members, and were based on völkisch mystic Guido von List's pseudo-runic Armanen runes, which he loosely based on the historical runic alphabets. Some of these insignias continue to be used by neo-Nazi individuals and groups.

SS symbols are commonly used by neo-Nazis today.[1]

Pseudo-runes used by the SS

Rune Name Meaning Comments
The double-sig rune insignia of the SS doppelte Siegrune Victory or Schutzstaffel The sig rune (or Siegrune) symbolised victory (sieg). The names of the -rune (on which the Siegrune was based) translate as "sun", however, von List reinterpreted it as a victory sign when he compiled his list of "Armanen runes".[2]

It was adapted into the emblem of the SS in 1933 by Walter Heck, an SS-Sturmhauptführer who worked as a graphic designer for Ferdinand Hoffstatter, a producer of emblems and insignia in Bonn.[2] Heck's device consisted of two sig runes drawn side by side like lightning bolts, and was soon adopted by all branches of the SS – though Heck himself received only a token payment of 2.5 Reichsmarks for his work.[3] The device had a double meaning; as well as standing for the initials of the SS, it could be read as a rallying cry of "Victory, Victory!".[2] The symbol became so ubiquitous that it was frequently typeset using runes rather than letters; during the Nazi period, an extra key was added to German typewriters to enable them to type the double-sig logo with a single keystroke[4]

Eif Zeal/enthusiasm The Eif rune is a rotated and reflected version of the or Eihwaz rune. During the early years of the SS it was used by Adolf Hitler's personal adjutants, such as Rudolf Hess.[3]
Ger Communal spirit The Ger rune was used to symbolise the communitarian ideal of the SS. The 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland", a Waffen-SS unit, adopted the rune as a variant of its divisional insignia.[3]
Hagal Faith in Nazism The Hagal Armanen rune was widely used in the SS for its symbolic representation of "unshakeable faith" in Nazi philosophy, as Himmler put it.[5] It was used in SS weddings as well as on the SS-Ehrenring (death's head ring) worn by members of the SS. The rune was also used as division insignia of the 6th SS Mountain Division "Nord". It is roughly similar to the or Haglaz rune of the Younger Futhark, which stood for "hail", but it was modified by von List for his Armanen runes. List considered it to be the "mother rune" of his runic alphabet and envisaged it as a representation of a hexagonal crystal.[6]
Leben Life The Lebensrune or "life rune" was based on the Algiz rune and was used by the Lebensborn e. V., the SS body responsible for the Lebensborn programme which supported the "racially, biologically, and hereditarily valuable families" of SS members and other "Aryans".[3][7] This interpretation of the "man" rune is not based on List, but it occurs as early as the 1920s in the literature of Germanic mysticism,[8] and it came to be widely used within the NSDAP and Nazi Germany, e.g. in official prescriptions for the various uniforms of the Sturmabteilung.[9] The Yr rune came to be seen as the "life rune" inverted and interpreted as "death rune" (Todesrune) During the World War II era, these two runes ( for "born", for "died") came to be used in obituaries and on tomb stones as marking birth and death dates, replacing asterisk and cross symbols (* for "born", for "died") conventionally used in this context in Germany.
Odal Kinship, family, and blood unity The Odal rune was used by the SS to symbolise several values of central importance to Nazi ideology. It was based on the Elder Futhark or othala rune, with further addition of "feet" or "serifs". During the Second World War it was used by the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division "Prinz Eugen" and the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division "Nederland", as well as the SS-Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt, which was responsible for maintaining the racial purity of the SS.[10]
Opfer Sacrifice The use of the Opfer rune – which, like the Eif rune, is a rotated version of the or Eihwaz rune – preceded the Nazis, as it was first adopted after 1918 by Der Stahlhelm war veterans' movement that eventually merged with the Sturmabteilung (SA). The symbol was adopted by the Nazis after 1923 to commemorate the party members who died in Adolf Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch.[3]
Tod Death The Todesrune is the inverted version of the Lebensrune or "life rune". It was based on the or Yr rune, which originally meant "yew".[11] It was used by the SS to represent death on documents and grave markers in place of the more conventional † symbol used for such purposes.[3]
Tyr Leadership in battle The SS's Tyr rune followed the design of the or Tiwaz rune which was named after Týr, a god in Germanic paganism sometimes associated with war. Based on the link between the historical rune and battle, the SS developed the idea of the insignia as the "Kampf" or battle rune, symbolising military leadership. The SS commonly used it in place of the Christian cross on the grave markers of its members. It was also used by graduates of the SA Reichsführerschule, which trained SS officers until 1934; they wore it on their upper left arms. It was adopted as an emblem by the 32nd SS Volunteer Grenadier Division "30 Januar", which was assembled from the members of SS schools in January 1945, as well as by the SS Recruitment and Training Department[10]

Other esoteric symbols used by the SS


As well as List's Armanen runes, the SS used a number of other esoteric symbols. These included:

Symbol Name Meaning Comments
Wolfsangel Liberty and independence The Wolfsangel ('wolf hook') was used as a heraldic symbol alluding to a wolf trap, and is still found on the municipal arms of a number of German towns and cities. It was adopted by a fifteenth-century peasants' uprising, thus acquiring an association with liberty and independence. The Nazi Party adopted the symbol during its early years and it was subsequently widely used by the SS, including by units such as the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". A variant of the Wolfsangel was used by the Weer Afdeelingen, the paramilitary wing of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands and the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division "Landstorm Nederland", which was raised from Dutch Nazis[10] and the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division.
Heilszeichen Prosperity The Heilszeichen symbols appeared on the SS death's head ring and were used to symbolise good fortune and success.[10]

See also



  1. ^ "Extreme Right Wing symbols, numbers, and acronyms" (PDF). Greater Manchester Police. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Yenne 2010, p. 68.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lumsden 1993, p. 18.
  4. ^ Yenne 2010, p. 71.
  5. ^ Lumsden 1993, p. 15.
  6. ^ Yenne 2010, p. 26.
  7. ^ Yenne 2010, p. 27.
  8. ^ Hermann Schwarz, Gott jenseits von theismus und pantheismus, Junker und Dünnhaupt, 1928.[1]
  9. ^ Robert Ley, Organisationsbuch der NSDAP (1943)[2].
  10. ^ a b c d Lumsden 1993, p. 19.
  11. ^ Lumsden 1993, p. 27.