Three Arrows

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A widely publicized election poster of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1932, with the Three Arrows symbol representing resistance against reactionary conservatism, Nazism and Soviet Communism, alongside the slogan "Against Papen, Hitler, Thalmann" Three Arrows election poster of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, 1932 - Gegen Papen, Hitler, Thalmann.jpg
A widely publicized election poster of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1932, with the Three Arrows symbol representing resistance against reactionary conservatism, Nazism and Soviet Communism, alongside the slogan "Against Papen, Hitler, Thälmann"

The Three Arrows (German : Drei Pfeile) is a social democrat political symbol associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), used in the late history of the Weimar Republic. First conceived for the SPD-dominated Iron Front as a symbol of the social-democratic resistance against Nazism in 1932, it became an official symbol of the Party during the November 1932 German federal election, representing the resistance against Nazism, Communism and reactionary conservatism. [1]


Weimar Republic

Cover of Chakhotin's book Three Arrows against the Swastika Cover of Dreipfeil gegen Hakenkreuz.jpg
Cover of Chakhotin's book Three Arrows against the Swastika

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) was opposed by both the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the Communist Party (KPD). In this setting, the SPD organizer Carlo Mierendorf recruited Russian exiled physiologist Sergei Chakhotin as the propagandist of the paramilitary Iron Front, and together they developed propaganda initiatives to counter the NSDAP and the KPD in early 1932. The two launched the Three Arrows as a symbol for the social democrat militancy. [2] The Iron Front was regarded as a "social fascist terror organisation" by the KPD. [3]

The Antifascist Iron Front used the Three Arrows to deface the nazi swastika Kisspng-iron-front-post-wwii-anti-fascism-symbol.png
The Antifascist Iron Front used the Three Arrows to deface the nazi swastika

Mierendorf and Chakhotin launched the Three Arrows against the Swastika (Dreipfeil gegen Hakenkreuz) campaign. [4] Chakhotin authored a book by the same name. [5] The Three Arrows were thought to represent the struggle of the social democratic movement against reaction (referring to monarchism), capitalism and fascism. [6] [7] On a widely used and publicized election poster of the SPD for the Reichstag election on 6 November 1932, the Three Arrows were used to represent opposition to the Communist Party, the monarchist wing of the Centre Party, and the Nazi Party, accompanied by the slogan "Against Papen, Hitler, Thälmann." [8] [1] The three arrows also represented the three agents of working class strength: political (represented by the SPD), economic (represented by the trade unions) and physical (represented by the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold). [9] [10] [11]

The aesthetic of the campaign and the Three Arrows symbol as such drew inspiration from Soviet-Russian avant-garde revolutionary artwork. [4] According to Chakhotin, his inspiration for the Three Arrows were a swastika that had been crossed over with chalk in Heidelberg. Per Chakhotin's argument, the Three Arrows and the swastika would always appear as if the three lines were imposed over the swastika rather than the other way around. [2] The Three Arrows were adopted as an official social democrat symbol by the SPD leadership and the Iron Front by June 1932. [2] Iron Front members would carry the symbol on their arm bands. [12] The slogan "neither Stalin's slaves nor Hitler's henchmen" was also used by the SPD in connection with the symbol. [1]

Use outside Germany

In August 1932, the Austrian Social Democrats adopted the Three Arrows as their combat symbol. [7] The Austrian socialist poet Karl Schneller dedicated the poem Drei Pfeile to the 1932 Austrian Social Democratic Party congress. [7] The symbol was banned in Austria in 1933. [6] During the Nazi regime, the symbol appeared on pamphlets of the Revolutionary Socialists of Austria and was used in graffiti. [7] During 1932–1935, it was also used in Belgium, Denmark and the United Kingdom. [2] [4] After Chakhotin had been forced into exile to France, the symbol became used by the French Section of the Workers International. [2] The Three Arrows remained the symbol of the French socialists until the 1970s, when it was substituted by the fist and rose symbol. [13] After World War II, the Three Arrows became the official party logo of the Social Democratic Party of Austria in 1945. The symbol had been modified to include a circle and the symbolism changed to represent the unity of industrial workers, farm workers and intellectuals. [6] The Three Arrows symbol remained a prominent Social Democratic Party of Austria symbol until the 1950s. [6]

The current logo of the Social Democratic Party in Portugal, inspired by the German Social Democrats' Three Arrows Logo PSD cor.PNG
The current logo of the Social Democratic Party in Portugal, inspired by the German Social Democrats' Three Arrows

The Portuguese Democratic People's Party, created in 1974 in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution, which put an end to the 48-year-long fascist dictatorship in Portugal, and renamed Social Democratic Party in 1976, uses an adaptation of the Three Arrows as its logo since its foundation, with the difference the arrows are pointing upwards and each having a different colour (previously black, red and white; the white having been replaced by orange). According to party members involved in the discussions about the choice of the symbol, the Arrows were chosen as a way to differentiate the party from its main rivals' easily recognizable logos. the Socialist Party, which still uses the raised clenched fist and the rose, and the Communist Party with its hammer and sickle, and to stress the resistance to and rejection of fascism and Nazism. [14]

The Three Arrows symbol is popularly used within the antifa movement in the United States, along with flags based on the symbol of antifa in Germany. [15] Anarchists and anti-fascists often use the symbol usually against authoritarianism, fascism and authoritarian socialism. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<i lang="de" title="German language text">Roter Frontkämpferbund</i>

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Iron Front German paramilitary organization

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Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold

The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold was an organization in Germany during the Weimar Republic, formed by members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the German Centre Party, and the (liberal) German Democratic Party in February 1924. Its goal was to defend parliamentary democracy against internal subversion and extremism from the left and right, to teach the population to respect the new Republic, to honor its flag and the constitution. Its name is derived from the Flag of Germany adopted in 1919, the colors of which were associated with liberal parliamentary democracy and the republic, and themselves had first appeared together on a state flag, within a German-ethnicity sovereign state in 1778.

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Anti-fascism Opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals

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Karl Höltermann was a German Social Democratic activist and politician. For just over a year, during 1932/33 he served as a member of the Reichstag. By trade he started out as a typesetter, but after his wartime experiences he re-emerged as a successful party-political journalist.


  1. 1 2 3 Potthoff, Heinrich; Faulenbach, Bernd (1998). Sozialdemokraten und Kommunisten nach Nationalsozialismus und Krieg: zur historischen Einordnung der Zwangsvereinigung. Klartext. p. 27.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Dan S. White (1992). Lost Comrades: Socialists of the Front Generation, 1918-1945 . Harvard University Press. pp.  94–95. ISBN   978-0-674-53924-2.
  3. Lokatis, Siegfried (2003). Der rote Faden. Kommunistische Parteigeschichte und Zensur unter Walter Ulbricht (PDF). Zeithistorische Studien. 25. Köln: Böhlau Verlag. p. 60. ISBN   3-412-04603-5 via Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam. Thälmann hatte die SPD als „Hilfspolizei für den Faschismus“, als „verräterische und volksfeindliche Partei“, ihre Führer als „berufsmäßige Arbeiterverräter“, „Kapitalsknechte“ und „Todfeinde des Sozialismus“, die Eiserne Front als „Terrororganisation des Sozialfaschismus“ beschimpft und die „Liquidierung der SAJ als Massenorganisation“ gefordert. [Thälmann had insulted the SPD as "auxiliary police for fascism", as a "treacherous and anti-people party", its leaders as "professional traitors", "servants of capital" and "mortal enemies of socialism", the Iron Front as "terrorist organization of social fascism" and that the "Liquidation of the SAJ as a mass organization" was required.]
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  5. Michael W. Berns; Karl Otto Greulich (2007). Laser Manipulation of Cells and Tissues . Elsevier Academic Press. p.  731. ISBN   978-0-12-370648-5.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Drei Pfeile
  7. 1 2 3 4 Bund Sozialdemokratischer Freiheitskämpfer/innen, Opfer des Faschismus und aktiver Antifaschist/inn/en. Unser Zeichen
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  11. Posudin, Yuriy. Sergei Chakhotin - His contributions to social psychology and biophysics. Kiev, 2015. Artmedia print. ISBN   978-966-97453-1-6
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  13. Annette Becker; Evelyne Cohen (2006). La République en représentations: autour de l'œuvre de Maurice Agulhon. Publications de la Sorbonne. p. 44. ISBN   978-2-85944-546-1.
  14. Marujo, Miguel (4 April 2016). "O que explica as setinhas e a cor laranja do símbolo" [What explains the arrows and the orange of the symbol]. Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  15. Friedmann, Sarah (15 August 2017). "This Is What The Antifa Flag Symbols Mean". Bustle. Retrieved 16 April 2019.