Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

I Was Joking About Swastikas on German Tanks…

with 6 comments

In my rambling post yesterday about the Japanese Rising Sun flag I made an off hand remark about how upset people would get if the Germans started painting swastikas on their tanks. I was joking, really. So what do I wake up and see in the news? This:

“Afrika Korps” emblem on German military vehicle in Afghanistan. Credit: STERN

This is very similar to and obviously inspired by the emblem used by the German forces in North Africa during World War Two:


WW2 Afrika Korps Emblem. Credit: Wikipedia

Clearly I should be more careful what I say in my blog. And yes, people are upset.

Is this a big deal? In the greater scheme of things, probably not. While the Afrika Korps was part of Hitler’s Wehrmacht in World War Two, it was not involved in any war crimes. And the commander of the Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel was easily the highest ranking German not tainted by Nazism. Rommel in fact loathed the Nazis, and was ultimately “suicided” by them after the plot to kill Hitler failed. Rommel was not involved in the plot, but the plotters planned to make him head of state after Hitler was dead. It was a good idea, Rommel was respected in the west and a German surrender under him would have been better than the ignominy of an unconditional surrender under Hitler. Alas the plot failed, and a lot of good Germans whose only crime was hating Hitler died horribly.

So while the above is a Nazi era emblem, it really doesn’t symbolize the Nazis. His dislike of the Nazis aside, Rommel was one of the few generals in history to win a battle where he was outnumbered two to one. It’s a pretty good bet that’s what the Germans who painted this on their vehicles were symbolizing.

On the other hand, as the wise alien said in Plan Nine From Outer Space, “stupid stupid stupid!” Doing things that give your enemies propaganda talking points is dumb. The German soldiers should have used this symbol on vehicles in Germany, not vehicles operating overseas. Certainly not on vehicles in a country where their presence is definitely not completely accepted by the locals. Does anyone understand that if we are going to “win” the war on terror, we must win the hearts and minds of the Muslim in the street? The Taliban can now claim that NATO sent “Nazi” soldiers to Afghanistan. Smooth move guys.

(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They are historically important images, they are central to the subject of the post, and they are not being used for profit.)

Written by unitedcats

November 3, 2006 at 7:44 am

Posted in History, Propaganda, War

6 Responses

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  1. I believe people dig to deep into things these days. Every time someone sees something remotely related to nazi emblems they go off the deep end. Let the role reverse now since stereotyping seems to be the overall picture here. Every time I see an American flag, i think about the million or more Native Americans and hundreds of thousands of African Slaves that died to make the country you all live in…hows that stereotyping in the 21st century for you. A genocide is a genocide, no matter how much someone tries to sugar coat it.

    Jassen Svorjenson

    July 17, 2007 at 3:06 pm

  2. Anyway, you can find the Afrika Korp logo painted on italian jeeps in Afghanistan. Look at the picture at


    January 31, 2008 at 7:11 am

  3. this does not in anyway relate to nazi’s that palm tree is a german design just because they lost the war doesn’t mean that they cant use german emblems they are german soliers in the desert that is who originally made it. the americans still have the cavalry even though they masacured indians.
    if i was there in the german army i would use that emblem in fact that is why i am commenting i though that was cool using there history.


    September 9, 2008 at 12:14 am

  4. The German Afrikakorps units fought with bravery and distinction and very little of the ugliness and the evilness of the Nazi party managed to corrupt their ranks. The troops they have stationed abroad currently are in a desert environ and are still German, so I would expect the emblem to be very similiar, minus of course the sign of the political party we all love to hate. I hold a bachelors degree in history and I strong ties to German in present day and in my genes and I honestly don’t think Germans should feel shame in the battlefield performance of many of the Reich’s Wehrmacht units, provided we’re not talking about the morbidly effecient and purely evil machinations of the SS camps. The German Army took on world and held them at bay, while managing to mobilize and field foreign units in production and combat duties. It is impossible to read any account of the war that doesn’t express it’s admiration for the effort. As an American, I feel fortunate, perhaps even blessed that Hilter took it upon himself to invade the Soviet Union, it left the USSR in shambles and allowed the US to get the jump on winning the cold war. Had Hilter decided to really be a friend to Stalin, the evil we did see would’ve been a very small fraction of what the Hilter and Stain could do together. Rommel died a hero, a remote participant, at least supporter of more than more attempt on Hitler’s life. I say let the Afrikakorps ride again minus the swazstika. I take it you didn’t see the pictures of a few US Marine units in the Middle East…guess what they painted on a few of their jeeps…ha..yep…Afrikakorps emblems…kick ass and come home guys, I can’t feel right taking their fun away if they’re putting their lives on the line

    Chris Busenkell

    October 27, 2011 at 5:21 am

  5. What many do no realize is that in WWII the Germans had Muslim allies. They had an entire Waffen SS division of Muslim volunteers. The Muslim world was mostly colonies of European nations that saw Germany as an ally to rid them of foriegn occupation and colonization. Many Arabs, Indians and Africans all wore German uniforms in WWII fighting against Britian, France and the Soviet Union. The Germans should not be condemed for simple palm trees on vehilcles. The Deutsche Afrikakorps is a highly respected military unit and deserves as much, it’s not like they posted them with swastikas on them. If a palm tree gives thm an espirt de corps, whether Germans or Americans, more power to them…..


    July 15, 2012 at 9:02 am

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