Imagery of the Third Reich in the First Order

It is no secret that the enemies in Star Wars have always been influenced by the real-life villains of our own history. Nowhere is this more apparent than the persistent use of Nazi imagery within the saga. In the prequels, Palpatine’s rise to power mirrors that of Adolf Hitler, the original trilogy sets the Galactic Empire up as the repressive and dominating threat in the galaxy, and in the latest installment, The Force Awakens, the First Order continues the Nazi influenced totalitarian ideology of the destroyed Empire.

The best and most obvious place to start this comparison occurs about halfway through The Force Awakens. General Hux and Kylo Ren are on a mission to retrieve BB-8, the Resistance droid carrying a secret map to Luke Skywalker; a mission they repeatedly fail. Finally, General Hux suggests to Supreme Leader Snoke that they use their new superweapon (housed on Starkiller Base) to destroy the New Republic before they can discover Skywalker’s whereabouts. Snoke agrees and Hux triumphantly stomps out of the room to prepare the new superweapon for its inaugural strike.

Starkiller Base

Outside Starkiller Base, ranks upon ranks of First Order troops have been assembled for the commemoration of the new weapon's test firing. Row by row they stand as a proud General Hux towers above them, gazing out at the loyal army of stormtroopers he created from the ashes of the Empire. Behind him flutters a large flag of the First Order. Hux’s top generals stand nearby, watching with admiration and devotion.

Hux speaks before the assembly, beginning with a quiet, normal tone. He boldly states, “Today is the end of the Republic. The end of a regime that acquiesces to disorder.” Hux goes on, slowly growing louder and more passionate with each word.

“At this very moment in a system far from here, the New Republic lies to the galaxy while secretly supporting the treachery of the loathsome Resistance. This fierce machine which you have built, upon which we stand will bring an end to the Senate, to their cherished fleet. All remaining systems will bow to the First Order and will remember this as the last day of the Republic!"

General Hux addresses the assembled stormtroopers and officers of the First Order.

As General Hux concludes his speech, he watches as the assembled troops salute him by throwing up their left arms and giving a loud shout in unison. Starkiller Base then fires its superweapon. One of the targets for destruction is the Hosnian System, home to the New Republic. As the deadly energy is emitted from the weapon, Hux is visibly overcome with emotion, realizing his dreams and goals are now a reality.

Symbol of the First Order

As Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany during the 1920’s and 1930’s, loyal Nazis would annually gather in the city of Nuremberg. It was there that thousands of supporters would fill the Nazi party rally grounds and Zeppelin Field to hear their Führer speak. A proud Hitler would sometimes make the large crowd wait hours for his arrival, allowing suspense and excitement to build. Finally, Hitler would arrive walking from one end of the field to the other, slowly making his way to the grandstand that towered over the assembled Nazis. Atop the grandstand Hitler was joined by his top officials and many associates and dignitaries. The Zeppelin Field would be decorated with hundreds of swastikas, many which Hitler personally consecrated using the Blutfahne or “blood flag” at similar gatherings. High above the Führer hung a large Reichsadler or Nazi Imperial Eagle. The enormous First Order flag draped behind General Hux mirrors this idea of Nazi regalia and propaganda. In fact, the circular red, white and black imagery of the First Order symbol recalls the swastika. Nazis often wore a left armband adorned with a swastika, a style officers of the First Order imitated by wearing a left arm patch of their symbol. Learn more about how the Nazis and the Empire “Corrupted Ancient Symbols”.

Hitler is well known for his passionate and, seemingly, angry speeches. In popular culture and history classes, a disgruntled and shouting man is the common image that is used to portray Hitler. On the contrary, Adolf Hitler typically began each speech in a slow, somber tone that was almost conversational. As Hitler spoke, he worked himself into the loud, screaming, but passionate frenzy that we have all seen countless times. At appropriate moments during Hitler’s speeches, the gathered Nazis would be overcome with emotion and erupt into approving salutes and “Sieg Heils!”

Hitler delivering a passionate speech.

A mass Sieg Heil during a rally in the Tempelhof-Schöneberg district of Berlin in 1935.

The Nazi salute is sometimes believed to have originated out of an ancient Roman salute, however, there is no evidence to support such a salute ever existed among the Romans. Despite this, Hitler’s role model, Benito Mussolini, and his Fascists adopted the “Roman” salute which was portrayed in contemporary Italian films that glorified Italy’s rich heritage. Hitler and the Nazis soon followed suit, more or less copying the Roman salute. By the mid-1920’s the salute was mandatory amongst the Nazis and eventually all civilians were required to perform the salute once Hitler was affirmed as the dictator of Germany.

General Hux mirrors Hitler’s delivery during his speech to members of the First Order. He stands high on a grandstand before thousands of assembled loyalists. Hux begins his speech in a normal tone and slowly works his way into a loud, screaming rage. The propagandist imagery of the First Order surrounds him and his loyal soldiers orderly salute him at the conclusion of his speech.

Continuing on the traditions of the Galactic Empire, the officer uniforms of the First Order strongly mimic the style worn by the Nazis. No doubt the ever-present use of militaria added to the sense of strength and fear emanated by Hitler’s Nazi Empire and the First Order. When compared, it is obvious how much influence the uniforms of the First Order took from the Nazis. Nazi officers commonly wore tunics with high collars, Jodhpurs or flared breeches, and knee-high leather jackboots. These uniforms are based on the ulanka, worn by German cavalry during World War I. A similar style is seen amongst the ranks of the First Order. Furthermore, the First Order’s use of all black uniforms evokes Hitler’s feared SS or Schutzstaffel that carried out most of his notorious atrocities.

Comparison of First Order uniforms to those of the Nazis. Also note the Fleet Engineers standing in the background (at left) wearing Nazi-like helmets.

Another striking similarity that carries over from the Galactic Empire is the use of stormtroopers. The term stormtrooper originated with German soldiers in World War I. These specially trained soldiers were used to infiltrate enemy defensive lines and lead attacks in effort to break the stalemate during the later years of the war. The tactic was moderately successful and modern armies continue to utilize storm tactics today. In the early days of Hitler and the Nazis, the term stormtrooper was evolved into the Sturmabteilung (storm detachment), more commonly known as the SA or “brown shirts.” This paramilitary group was used in the early days of the party as the Nazi strong-arm tasked with protecting Hitler, keeping order at Nazi gatherings, disrupting opponent rallies, and openly attacking groups like communists, Jews and Slavs. The ranks of the SA would eventually swell to over three million men. In the end, the SA and its leaders grew too powerful and seemed to threaten Hitler’s grasp on control. By 1934 Hitler was feeling this threat and personally oversaw the arrest and execution of the SA leadership, including his friend Ernst Röhm. Learn more about the Night of the Long Knives and its influence on Star Wars.

Hitler Youth members performing the Nazi salute at a rally at the Lustgarten in Berlin, 1933.

Although the First Order continues to use Stormtroopers, one important point of continuity is missing, the use of clones. Early in The Force Awakens, Finn reveals that stormtroopers are comprised of men (and women) who were taken from their families as infants and brainwashed or trained to be totally loyal to the First Order. Later, General Hux explains to Kylo Ren that his soldiers are "exceptionally trained, programmed from birth.”

In the days of Nazi rule, Hitler made great effort to ensure not only the endurance of his own idolization, but also the ideology of Nazism. To assist with this long-term goal, Hitler targeted and indoctrinated the German youth. Originally established in 1922 as the Nazi Youth (Jugenbund der NSDAP), the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth grew to become the primary youth organization in Germany during Hitler’s reign. The doctrine of the Hitler Youth included the Nazi racist and pro-Aryan views, but the main focus was on loyalty to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Military type training was also paramount, engaging members in military style drill, weapons training and the wearing of Nazi inspired uniforms.

Lastly, the architecture of Starkiller Base is strongly influenced by Nazi military architecture and fortification. A visual comparison of the numerous defenses that made up Hitler’s Atlantic Wall reveal an obvious inspiration on First Order design. Currently, there are not many images of Starkiller Base available, but similar fortifications can clearly be seen around the base as General Hux gives his speech prior to the firing of the superweapon.

Nazi Fortifications

Nazi Fortifications

Nazi Fortifications

Nazi Fortifications
More on:

First Order, Starkiller Base, General Hux, Supreme Leader Snoke, First Order Stormtroopers, New Republic, Galactic Empire

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First posted on: December 30, 2015 by Wes Dodgens