Collection

Nazi Workers' Day Badge

Collection:

Category: Ceramics

Date: 1934

Nationality of Designer: German

Manufacturers Location: Germany

Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 0.2 cm

Purchase Price: £10

Abstract:

Badge commemorating the 1934 Intenrational Worker's Day in Germany, bearing the Nazi Swatika and eagle alongside a hammer and sickle, and an idealised head. 

Provenance:

Bought from a coin shop in York by Adam Sutherland 

Why it's in the Collection:

This badge highlights the fluid symbolic language that was used by workers' movements around the beginning of the twentieth century following the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. It was used to commemorate International Workers' Day in Germany and combines the fascist eagle carrying an enwreathed swastika between a hammer and sickle alongside an idealised male head. The head is heavily classicised with a pronounced brown and high forehead, perhaps symbolising the enlightened worker. It was produced in 1934, the year after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Chancellor, the Nazi Party had won a large portion of the vote in a general election and the old flag of the German republic had been banned in favour of the imperial and Nazi flag flown together.

The combination of fascist and communist imagery on this badge illustrates the please-all eclecticism combining Nationalism and Socialism that guided Nazi policy and manipulated the German people. Both sets of symbols were used widely at the time: the swastika has a deep history with wide ranging significance in Hindu and Western religion and was used by a range of organisations - from the Theosophical Society to the Finnish Military - before its association with Nazism and anti-Semitism. Two swastikas also feature on Ruskin's tombstone in Coniston designed by W.G. Collingwood. The hammer and sickle on the other hand was a relatively new invention first used on the flag of the Soviet Union in 1922 to represent the previously disenfranchised proletariat consisting of the urban and rural working classes. The sickle directly evokes rural labour through the harvesting of grain and was a motif used by labour movements across Europe before it was hardened into an immoveable symbol of Communism through the twentieth century.