Symbols and marking where an equilateral cross is enclosed in a circle have been part of the iconography of many different cultures dating back to at least the Bronze Age.1 Since at least the 1930s, a version with ‘broken’ arms, which resembles a swastika, has distinctly far-right connotations due to its use by the German Faith Movement and subsequently as unit insignia for two Waffen SS divisions.
The origins of the sun cross or sun wheel stretch back into human prehistory — variations are associated with a range of historical cultures from Scandinavian to India.2 During the early 20th century, the proto-Nazi group the Thule Society, whose ideology influenced Nazism, adopted a broken sun cross as their logo, inspired by the perceived link between the symbol and a pre-Christian ‘Aryan’ origin of the German people.3
The Thule Society attempted to link the German people with prominent cultures of the past — Hindu, Persian, Greco-Roman, etc. — based on a pseudo-scientific myth that ‘Aryan’ peoples are the only ones capable of producing a higher civilization. The sun cross symbol, as with the Swastika, was found inscribed on the material culture of these pre-Christian societies and the Thule Society used the symbol to represent this Aryan lineage.4
The version used by the Thule Society and the German Faith Movement differs from those used by the Waffen SS with the addition of an enclosing circle. Versions associated with neo-Nazism today tend to be based on the Waffen SS design. It is important to note that the ‘broken’ sun cross design is often seen as a variation of the swastika rather than a distinct symbol due to their visual similarity and ideological connotations.5