Finland’s Air Force Command has quietly phased out its swastika emblem after over a century, a researcher said.
Though Finland was allied with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II, and though the Swedish count who introduced the symbol to the country in 1918 would become the brother-in-law of a prominent SS leader and friend to Adolf Hitler, the symbol’s use in the country preceded Nazism by several years and defenders say it has no links to the fascist movement.
University of Helsinki academic Teivo Teivainen noted the policy change in an interview with the BBC.
With Finland’s founding in 1918, Count Eric von Rosen of neighboring Sweden gifted the Finnish air force with a plane emblazoned with a blue swastika, which he saw as a good luck charm, according to the report.
The Nazi Party officially adopted the swastika two years later, in 1920.
In tribute to von Rosen, the emblem continued to be used on Finland’s Air Force planes through 1945.
Following World War II, the swastika was scrubbed from the planes but continued to appear on Air Force uniforms and other military items, such as flags.
At the time of his gift, von Rosen had no Nazi ties, though he would become a Swedish leader of his local National Socialist movement over a decade later. Teivainen also described him as a personal friend to Hitler. He became brother-in-law of notorious Nazi leader Hermann Göring in the mid-1920s.
The symbol, with had ancient roots in far Eastern cultures long before it was co-opted by the Nazis, was also featured in paintings by Finnish artists in the late 19th century and adorned buildings in the country in the 1920s, according to Teivainen.
“In Finland there’s this idea that it’s a random decorative sign — which to some extent it is,” he said.
Teivainen, who has questioned the continued use of the symbol, detected the quiet discarding of the swastika by the air force.
The Air Force Command confirmed the change to the BBC.
“As unit emblems are worn on uniform, it was considered impractical and unnecessary to continue using the old unit emblem, which had caused misunderstandings from time to time,” a spokesperson said.