The small mining town of Swastika, Ontario, named after an ancient symbol for good luck, was founded in 1908, and is situated just west of Kirkland Lake. At the onset of WWII, with the German Nazis having adopted the swastika symbol, the Ontario government sought to change the name of the town to Winston, in honour of Winston Churchill. The townspeople resisted, and when the Dept. of Highways erected new “Winston” signs at the edge of town they would tear them down and replace them with “Swastika” signs. It is said that they also put up a sign reading “To hell with Hitler – we had the name first”. See the bottom of this page for the history of the Swastika Symbol.
The Official Road Map of Ontario issues published between 1940 and 1946 show the attempts at the name change, as seen in the clips below.
Many thanks to Willie Frey for providing the information and maps used on this page.
From the 1940 - 1941 Official Road Map of Ontario. Town is named Swastika.
From the 1941 Official Road Map of Ontario. Town name is somewhat obliterated.
From the 1942 map and others produced in 1943 and 1944 but not named as such. The town is shown no longer as Swastika, but is named Winston.
From the 1945 "special edition" Official Northern Map. Neither the Winston or Swastika names are used. The omission of a town name suggests that the issue of the name change was still unresolved.
From the 1946 Official Ontario Road Map. The name Swastika is re-instated and has been used ever since.
The swastika has an extensive history. It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.
The symbol experienced a resurgence in the late nineteenth century, following extensive archeological work such as that of the famous archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.”
In the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe. It had numerous meanings, the most common being a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness. However, the work of Schliemann soon was taken up by völkischmovements, for whom the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride.
This conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people is likely one of the main reasons why the Nazi party formally adopted the swastika or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920.
The Nazi party, however, was not the only party to use the swastika in Germany. After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially “pure” state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: “I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.”
The swastika would become the most recognizable icon of Nazi propaganda, appearing on the flag referred to by Hitler in Mein Kampf as well as on election posters, arm bands, medallions, and badges for military and other organizations. A potent symbol intended to elicit pride among Aryans, the swastika also struck terror into Jews and others deemed enemies of Nazi Germany.
Despite its origins, the swastika has become so widely associated with Nazi Germany that contemporary uses frequently incite controversy.