Death Head

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Death Head

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Frequently Asked Questions...

The Origin of the Symbol of the Death's Head?

I am very interested in symbols and there origin. One that has fascinated me is the Nazi SS Death's head symbol. I can find plenty abou the SS but I want only to know about were the Nazis came up with the Death Head symbol. How old is that symbol and what are its pre-nazi origin and how has it evolved.


Answer:

I pulled this off wikipedia. Pretty interesting. Good question!

Use of the symbol as a military insignia began with the cavalry of the Prussian army under Frederick the Great. Frederick formed Husaren-Regiment Nr.5 (von Ruesch), a Hussar regiment commanded by Colonel von Ruesch. These Hussars adopted a black uniform with a Totenkopf emblazoned on the front of their Mirletons and wore it on the field in the War of Austrian Succession and in the Seven Years' War.

Hussar from Husaren-Regiment Nr.5 (von Ruesch) in 1744 with the Totenkopf on the ShakoIn 1808, when the regiment was reformed into Leib-Husaren Regiments Nr.1 and Nr.2, the Totenkopf remained a part of the uniform.

During the Napoleonic Wars, when Frederick Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg was killed in battle, his troops changed the colour of their uniforms to black, with a Totenkopf on their Shakos in mourning their dead leader (Other sources claim that the "Black Brunswickers" were so equipped while Friedrich Wilhelm of Brunswick lived, as a sign of revenge on the French [1]).

August von Mackensen, German field marshall.The death's head continued to be used throughout the Prussian and Brunswick Armed forces until 1918.

The Totenkopf was used in Germany throughout the inter-war period, most prominently by the Freikorps. In 1933 it was in use by the regimental staff and the 1st, 5th, and 11th squadrons of the Reichswehr's 5th Cavalry Regiment.

The WW II era Luftwaffe's 54th Bomber Wing (Kampfgeschwader 54) was known officially by the name "Totenkopf", using virtually the same graphic skull-crossbones insignia as the SS units of the same name.

[edit] SS Usage
In the early days of the NSDAP, Julius Schreck, the leader of the Stabswache (Adolf Hitler's bodyguard unit), adopted the Totenkopf for his unit. This later grew into the Schutzstaffel (SS), which continued to use the Totenkopf as insignia throughout their brief history. As they had done with the Swastika, the Nazis simply adopted the Totenkopf from the historical tradition and used it for their own purposes, leaving it marked with a stigma that has continued to the present.

[edit] Use outside Germany
The Kingdom of Sweden's Hussar Regiments wore it in the Prussian Style on the front of the Mirleton.
The Russian Kornilov regiment adopted it in 1917.

Regimental cap badge of the Queen's Royal LancersThe British Army's Queen's Royal Lancers continue to use the skull and crossbones in their emblem, inherited from its use by the 17th Light Dragoons - a unit raised in 1759 following General Wolfe's death in Quebec, with an emblem of a death's head and the words 'Or Glory' chosen in commemoration of him. [2]
Death In June, an experimental musical group, use a modified version of a totenkopf as a sort of logo, flanked by the number 6 since 1982. Although the particular version used by Death In June is a modified, faintly grinning version of the SS insignia, Pearce has stated the symbolism is clear: "The Totenkopf for Death, and the six for the sixth month - June." The totenkopf-6 appears on numerous articles of merchandise and many things relating to Death In June.
Marilyn Manson used this symbol on clothing during the Golden Age of Grotesque era in a parodying manner.
Although not exactly a Totenkopf per se, the Chilean guerrilla leader, Manuel Rodriguez used the symbol on his elite forces called "Husares de la muerte" (Hussars of death).