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Hate on Display Hate Symbols Database

SS Bolts

Also known as: Cracker Bolts, SS Lightning Bolts, Lightning Bolts

The SS Bolts are a common white supremacist/neo-Nazi symbol derived from Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany. The SS, led by Heinrich Himmler, maintained the police state of Nazi Germany. Its members ranged from agents of the Gestapo to soldiers of the Waffen (armed) SS to guards at concentration and death camps.

The SS symbol is derived from the "sowilo" or "sun" rune, a character in the pre-Roman runic alphabet associated with the "s" sound. The Nazis derived many of their symbols from such pre-Roman images. Because the sowilo rune resembles a lightning bolt (with flat ends instead of pointed ends), the SS symbol has come to be associated with a lightning bolt image.

Following World War II, the SS bolts symbol was adopted by white supremacists and neo-Nazis worldwide. Most white supremacists use it in its Nazi form, as two bolt-like images with flattened ends. However, sometimes the symbol may have pointed bottom ends or pointed tops and bottoms. These variants of the SS bolts are most frequently associated with prison tattoos.

The SS bolts are typically used as a symbol of white supremacy but there is one context in which this is not necessarily always so. Decades ago, some outlaw biker gangs appropriated several Nazi-related symbols, including the SS bolts, essentially as shock symbols or symbols of rebellion or non-conformity. Thus SS bolts in the context of the outlaw biker subculture does not necessarily denote actual adherence to white supremacy. However, because there are a number of racists and full-blown white supremacists within the outlaw biker subculture, sometimes it actually is used as a symbol of white supremacy. Often the intended use and meaning of the SS bolts in this context is quite ambiguous and difficult to determine.

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