Britain's Prince Harry provoked outrage today after being pictured dressed as a Nazi soldier at a fancy dress party.
The picture, published on the front page of The Sun newspaper, immediately drew strong condemnation and questions over Harry’s suitability to train as a British Army officer.
A statement was issued from the Prince late last night in which he apologised for any offence.
The newspaper said Harry, 20, had attended a fancy dress party in the desert uniform of Rommel’s German Afrika Korps to the party in Wiltshire last Saturday.
The photo shows him wearing a swastika armband and a badge of the German Wehrmacht or defence force on his collar.
Andy Pike, from Unite Against Fascism, said: “Prince Harry has had a very expensive education, is supposedly fit to be an officer serving in his country’s armed forces and one would assume he is not a complete idiot.
“One would be very surprised if he were not aware of the significance of wearing the swastika and the amount of offence that would cause.
“We believe it will offend the whole of the Jewish community and many others. It is extremely disrespectful to the millions of people that fought against fascism.”
In a statement, the Prince said: “I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise.”
How and ancient symbol of luck became image of evil
The swastika – hijacked by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930s – is seen today as a symbol of evil.
However, thousands of years before the Second World War, it represented good luck and prosperity.
The word Swastika has its roots in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India, but the actual symbol is older.
One definition of the Sanskrit word swastika is “su” meaning good, “asti” meaning to be, and “ka” as a suffix.
Almost every race, religion and continent honoured the swastika from American Indians and Buddhists to Aztecs and neolithic tribes.
It is thought the swastika forms a combination of four “Ls” standing for Luck, Light, Love and Life.
The circumstances of how the Nazis came to use the symbol are disputed but it is believed Dr Friedrich Krohn, a dentist, designed the classic Nazi swastika in 1919.
Dr Krohn acknowledged the ancient Buddhist use of the symbol and argued that the Nazi swastika should point anti-clockwise because to Buddhists this signifies “fortune and well-being“.
But Hitler demanded that it point clockwise, which to Buddhists signifies “cessation” or “away from God”.
Another view states some members of the German Free Corps, who later formed the nucleus of the early Nazi Party, brought the swastika to Germany from Finland and Estonia, where it had been an official and decorative emblem.
In 1920 many troops wore the swastika on their helmets when they occupied Berlin in their abortive attempt to overthrow the German Republic.
From March 1933, a few weeks after the ascent of Hitler to power in Germany, the swastika flag flew side by side with the German national colours.
From September 1935 until the downfall of the Nazi regime in 1945, the swastika flag was the official flag of the Third Reich and was prominently displayed.
The swastika is still used as a symbol by supremacist and separatist hate groups.