Friday, 12 November 2010

Hitler,the Nazis, the Swastika and Buddhism

In 1924 in Berlin, Germany, Paul Dahlke founded the House for Buddhists pictured above. The house catered for all Buddhists but mostly those of Theravada and Japanese Buddhism as these were the most renowned in the west at that time. The Nazis were broadly tolerant of the movement and the house remained opened throughout the war but under very close supervision as the Nazis wished to have contacts with their allies the Japanese who were predominantly Buddhist in terms of their state religion.

It was briefly closed and its founder arrested in 1941 - he was later released and continued to teach about Buddhism at the house for the rest of the war.

The fact that Hitler and the Nazis tolerated Buddhism does not of course mean that Buddhism had any or little influence on Nazi ideas. Buddhism of course stands formally in opposition through the Buddha's message of non-violence and compassion to the toxic violent and racial ideology of the Nazis.

Another reason for perceived connections are the Nazis use of the reverse swastika which was stolen by them and adopted by Hitler for use by the movement. The video below explains the history of the symbol.

It is probably the fact that Buddhism through its general non-attachment and thus little engagement in western economic models of growth and imperialism that ultimately saved it - had Buddhists had more influence and power in western societies and thus Germany then they would have developed a more significant profile and in due course been subdugated and crushed by the Nazi machine. But finally as I mentioned before probably the most important reason for its relative toleration by the Nazis was their desire not to upset relations with their Buddhist ally in the Axis , Imperial Japan.

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