Viking Identity

1042 Words 5 Pages
During the early part of the 20th century Germany was dealing a the loss of national pride brought on by their defeat in World War I. Facing a similar humiliation that led to the initial Viking revival in Scandinavia at the end of the 18th century Germany also witnessed a rebirth of ‘national identity’ spurred by the promotion of a supposed and superior Germanic Aryan race which later was merged with the Germanic concept of the Viking identity. The initial Germanic Viking identity began in 1852, during the initial Viking revival of the 19th century. (Lönnroth 1997: 245) In 1848 Richard Wagners presented the operatic tale Ring des Nibelungen that captured the romantic and mystic tale of the Vikings in a Norse/ Germanic setting. (Lönnroth 1997: …show more content…
(Orrling 2000: 362) The blue-eyed blond hair complexion that was favoured among the Nazi party was also a trait common among Scandinavian nations a factor that led to their association with the Germanic peoples. (Griffiths and Harding 2015: 22) Thus when the Nazi party gained power, Aryan supports such as Gustaf Kossinna whose work on Norse/Vikings runes became incorporated in Germanic prehistory further equated Aryans to Norsemen and by association Germans. (Orrling 2000: 362) Like much of the Nazi ideology the blending of Norse/Viking as having purely Germanic origins is a stretch at best however, for Kossinna and Chamberlin the Vikings and other northern Germanic groups were the carriers of old German culture and embodied the romantic and nationalistic revival that began in Scandinavia in the 19th century. All of their work in promoting the existence of Norse/Germanic/Aryan race led to numerous excavations being carried out under the Nazi party primarily in attempts to provide proof of the existence of the Aryan race. (Thobo-Carlsen, …show more content…
As part of the Nazi archaeological program, the SS Ahnenerbe, was established whose purpose was to provide definitive proof of the Aryan race throughout Europe primarily as part of the Nordic race. (Bouchard, 2011: 37) Headed by Hienrich Himmler, his interest in the German past and Kossinna’s supposed Aryan/ Norse runes led to the eventual establishment of the Vikings as a Germanic/Aryan culture. Himmler in particular expressed interest in excavations at the Viking site of Hedeby in southern Jutland. (Mahsarski 2015: 27) Prior to the Germans taking over excavations in the early 20th century excavations were already underway by a Danish archaeologist. By 1934, the 9th century Viking site fell under the supervision of Heinrich Himmler until it was taken over by fellow Nazi party member Herbert Jankuhn in 1937. (Mahsarski 2015: 28) Both individuals shared a strong interest in studying and understanding the Viking and "Nordic spirit" whose supposed Aryan identity created the backbone for numerous propaganda posters and symbols used by the SS. Further, the excavations carried out at Hedeby were part of a attempt to increase Nazi propaganda by empathizing unity with the Scandinavian nations. (Richards 2005: 124) While much of the information on the history of Hedeby was lost during the Nazi’s attempts to provide evidence of the Aryan race, Hedeby remains one of the largest Viking age

Related Documents