Despite its demolition decades ago, the image in the masonry of structure continues to fascinate readers
This century-old oddity of Pelican Rapids history continues to perplex those who encounter it–even though it is nearly lost to history.
Within the past few months, the Pelican Rapids Press was phoned by a reader who was curious about the “swastika.” This bit of local legend seems to surface every couple years.
The symbol, which has become one of the most hated icons in all of human history, was that of the Nazi party of Germany prior and through World War II.
We wrote a column on the topic a few years ago. At least once a year, a reader inquires about it. The symbol was incorporated into the brickwork; very prominently displayed at the top of the structure. The symbol is clear and obvious in photos from the era.
Based on dates published in Pelican Rapids history books, the structure was built in 1916. This places the construction prior to 1920–when the swastika was adopted as a symbol of the NAZI Party of Germany. (Though the party did not take power until 12 years later.)
We’ve heard reports that the 1916 masonry work was performed by German-American bricklayers, but those comments have been strictly third-hand and anecdotal. We are not aware of any firm explanation for the “swastika” on the old Pelican school. Nobody alive today would have had any connection to the 1916 construction, and the design decisions that went into the building.
For centuries–long before the NAZI party became prominent–the swastika symbol was used in various contexts, in various cultures–from China to India to Europe. Prior to the NAZI party, it had historically been presented as a “good luck” symbol.
Freemasons also gave the swastika symbol importance. A smiliar symbol is also associated with Hindu tradition.
If there is a basis in fact to the vague information connected to the 1916 construction date of the school, it might suggest that a bunch of good-natured bricklayers of German ancestry may have incorporated the “swastika” into the building as a “good luck” message to Pelican Rapids. Or, possibly it was a Masonic message of some sort.
A couple months ago, Pelican Rapids teacher, coach and history enthusiast Harold Holt wrote a few of his thoughts on the subject. We reprint his text below.
Local historian Harold Holt speculates that Scandinavian bricklayers incorporated symbol on school building–inspired by Nordic mythology
By Harold Holt
Hitler was great at borrowing many things from other cultures that had been successful for them– and apply these to Germany.
The most infamous, in my opinion, was the use of the swastika.
“The Swastika” is the oldest cross and emblem in the world. It forms a combination of four “Ls” standing for Luck, Light, Love and Life.
The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit word svastika meaning good fortune or wellbeing. Also, after WWI it was used by some groups in Germany to associate with the idea of a “pure” Aryan state.
Germany was in an economic depression worse than the USA following WWI and the Treaty of Versailles that blamed the Germans for the war.
A US dollar on November 16, 1923 was worth 4,200,000,000,000 German Marks.
The Germans were looking for a scapegoat. Hitler realized this and when the Nazis party was formed they blamed the Communists; the Weimar Republic, (the government after WWI); and the Jews (who had the money).
They also wanted to promote Germany’s past achievements. This helped Hitler win election to the German Reichstag. To further unite the people of Germany he picked the swastika as their symbol because of its history of well being and uniting the German people. He however changed it by tilting it.
The historic swastika was like the one on the Pelican school (the straight Ls, not tilted).
I would like to speculate that the bricklayers were Scandinavians.
With all the Norwegians and Swedish who settled in the Pelican Rapids area, I am sure that some of them had heard the story of Odin, a Nordic god who is represented passing through space as a whirling disk or “swastika” looking down through all worlds. However, the god Odin is also found in German mythology.
In closing–being the school was built in 1916 I do not think the swastika was placed there by Nazi sympathizers.