5 Everyday Things With (Mostly Forgotten) Nazi Origins
When exactly do you forgive a creative for their past beliefs or associations? Well, the world usually answers that with another question: "How cool was the thing they made?" For example, America rolled out the red carpet almost immediately for Nazi scientists who were great at making rockets. And that's hardly an isolated example. Plenty of everyday things have weird connections to the Nazis, for one reason or another. Like how ...
The Olympic Torch Relay Started As Nazi Propaganda
The traditional Olympic torch relay feels like something carried over from the ancient games, since it seems super classical and Greek-ish. But it's not only a fairly modern invention, but was even a pet project of one Adolf Hitler. In the lead-up to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler wasn't feeling too hot about the whole thing, believing them to have been corrupted by, you guessed it, the Jews. So he wanted a return to a simpler time, which is the calling card of every idiot who's too afraid to say "I wish we could be more racist."
The ancient Olympics did have a flame incorporated into the opening ceremony which burned throughout the games, but it was lit on location and didn't involve a relay. Despite the "WELL, ACTUALLY" of historians, Hitler wanted to really push parallels between the ancient Greeks and the Third Reich, believing the latter to be the rightful heirs of the former. And so the torch relay started as Nazi propaganda, complete with women dressed in virginal white tunics and arms manufacturers designing a weather-resistant torch to be carried from Greece to Berlin. And all of it was filmed by Goebbels' propaganda machine. Then later everybody decided to keep it because it was super cool.
The Nazis Were All About Meth
One of the most overlooked aspects of the Nazis is how a lot of them were on all the drugs, like, all the time. Hell, according to the notes of his personal physician, Hitler himself might have received 800 injections of a whole cocktail of substances while he was in power. At one point he needed "performance-enhancing" drugs to help him maintain the Nazi salute for longer, and he was totally blitzed the first time he met Mussolini.
But before I continue, here's a historical disclaimer: Conception of the Nazis' most horrific policies implemented during the war preceded the drug use. This was not a case where they all were going to wake up the next morning and feel terrible about the whole thing. The drugs just gave them the energy to do more terrible things longer.
Anyway, various types of amphetamines had been bouncing around since being invented in Germany in 1887, but it was a German pharmaceutical company that first figured out how to mass-produce meth under the brand name Pervitin in 1938. Immediately the Nazis decided this was the drug that would turn their men into tireless fighting machines. Millions of pills flooded the front lines, allowing soldiers to withstand sleep deprivation, hunger, and trauma. (Because why be evil AND miserable?) Historian Lukasz Kamienski notes that it left soldiers "unable to perform effectively for the next day or two." Still, it remained in use, almost if there was something about this mysterious drug that made people want to keep taking it, despite the negative effects.
The war ended, but meth stayed on shelves across the world as a treatment for everything from depression to obesity. Then governments woke up to its harmful effects and it was outlawed or controlled in most countries within a few decades. Which of course meant no one ever abused the drug again and everything was fine.
Adidas And Puma Both Come From A Sibling Rivalry With A Nazi Twist
German brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler co-founded Dassler Brothers, an athletic shoe company. Apparently, famed American track star Jesse Owens wore some of their shoes in the 1936 Olympics. But the inspirational story of a little company making it big got derailed not long after. Both brothers joined the Nazi Party, and in 1943, Rudolf was conscripted into the German military and shipped off to Poland. He was not a fan of this.
Aside from being generally pissed about being ripped from a business he'd helped build to go fight a war, rumors were that Rudolf felt Adolf had something to do with his conscription (thinking he'd pulled some strings within the party, somehow). You know how brothers will ruin their life's work to send each other into combat? Yeah, that classic situation. While he was gone, the Nazis took over the shoe factory and converted it to manufacture anti-tank rockets. This will be important in a moment.
In the aftermath of the war, there was a scramble among former Nazis to prove that they hadn't really meant it, honest. Rudolf came back home, and what ensued was some pretty vicious finger-pointing, as each brother insisted the other was the bigger Hitler-lover. Adolf (who we'll call by his nickname, "Adi," to avoid confusion with the more famous one) was put on trial, and Rudolf saw the opportunity to fuck him over and get control of the factory. He told prosecutors that Adi had voluntarily converted the factory to weapons-making, because the guy loved Hitler just that much.
The panel trying Adi didn't believe this, and Adi was set free, but you can imagine how this put a strain on their relationship. Rudolf thus went on to form his own shoe company, Puma, while Adolf renamed Dassler Brothers to "Adidas" (short for "Adi Dassler"). Both brands, of course, became wildly successful on an international scale. The brothers' power and wealth did nothing to diminish their animosity. They remained enemies until their deaths, even getting buried on opposite sides of the same cemetery. This was presumably so they would not have to awkwardly interact with one another in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
The Inventor Of The Rotary Engine Was Somehow Too Racist For The Nazis
Some Cracked readers aren't constantly elbow-deep in a greasy car engine at all hours, so to catch them up: The rotary engine was a huge deal. It hit the market in the late 1950s, and for a while, it looked like every car would soon have one under the hood. Mazda made a big deal about their rotary engines as recently as the 2000s, and they are bringing them back again.
It's an amazing piece of engineering, and the creator was the super, mega, ultra bigot Felix Wankel. In 1922, at age 19, he joined the German People's Protection and Defiance Federation, the most active antisemitic group in Germany at the time. A year later, he became a member of the Nazi Party. He wore swastikas in public and distributed antisemitic leaflets. You'd think that would make him a poster boy for the party, but he actually got kicked out for overdoing it with the racism.
Wankel would later describe his antisemitic diary entries as "youthful mistakes." If so, the guy definitely went all-in. Speaking about him, his regional Nazi branch leader said, "Wankel is a man of entirely one-sided intelligence, which produces only in the negative ... thereby poisonous ... acts." But surely he was allowed back in after war broke out, as he'd definitely be a better fit now that Nazis were being pretty open about their awfulness, right? Sure, for a while. After forming his own, more extreme faction of the Nazi Party, he was welcomed back into the fold and made an officer in the SS. That only lasted a couple of years until he got kicked out of the party again in 1942, for reasons unknown.
After the war, Wankel became extremely wealthy and influential, making millions from licensing his engine to pretty much every large automaker. He founded the Felix Wankel Foundation and was a champion of animal rights, and eventually passed away at age 86. Seriously, don't underestimate the ability of powerful people to come back from, well, pretty much anything.
Jagermeister Was Apparently Named For Hitler's Right-Hand Man
With a name whose first part is Guillermo del Toro's moniker for giant robots and a logo that pictures a particularly spiritual elk, Jagermeister has become famous for being the choice drink for only the classiest of college fraternities. If you're a fan of it, that's great, but to me, it tastes like someone tried to make a smoothie out of batteries.
But before it gathered this sterling reputation, it was a local brew whose original nickname was "Goring-Schnapps." "Goring" as in Hermann Goring. Some of you might recognize him as Hitler's second in command. He liked the drink enough for the association to become commonplace. (He also really liked morphine, but they don't serve shots of that at clubs, so it takes a backseat in his repertoire of bad habits.)
In 1934, the brew was officially renamed the Jagermeister. That's German for "huntmaster," which, to be fair, is a title that had existed in Germany for years. But also to be fair, it was Goring's Nazi title, and it hardly seems like a coincidence. (His full title was Reichsjagermeister, aka "Imperial Huntmaster," but "FOUR ROUNDS OF REICHSJAGER" has one too many syllables for drunk bros.)
The brew's creator didn't talk much about his personal politics (like most German captains of industry, he distanced himself from the Nazis after the war), and those associations have since been forgotten by the public. After all, history is just one big Jagermeister hangover we're all waking up to.
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