A GERMAN tour operator has accused a Scots ferry operator of adopting a ‘Nazi symbol’ as its new logo.
Serco NorthLink launched a marketing campaign in February – centred on fictional character Magnus the Viking who they say symbolises “dynamism, power and pride”.
But Hamburg-based Britain Travel have urged the ferry company to re-think its logo, comparing it with imagery used when Hitler was in power.
And it has emerged that Scottish academics warned the company about the logo earlier this year.
Viking imagery was used by the Nazis as a symbol of Aryan heritage and cultural pride.
The new NorthLink logo shows proud-looking Magnus the Viking with his arm pointing purposefully in the air.
Peter Storm, who runs Hamburg-based tour operators Britain Travel, said: “We saw the logo for the first time and we immediately thought of the imagery used at the time Hitler was in power in Germany.
“It is not even the arm pointing in the air but the whole figure is associated with Viking propaganda symbols from that period.”
He urged NorthLink to reconsider the use of the Viking and suggested it be amended to look friendlier and less warlike.
He said: “They need to move away from the Nazi symbolism. NorthLink is not on a crusade or looting expedition and this Viking symbol could upset Germans.”
The Waffen SS, who carried out some of the worst atrocities of the Second World War, were particularly fond of Viking imagery.
Norse and Viking writing, known as runes, appeared extensively on SS propaganda posters and equipment.
Dr Victoria Whitworth, lecturer in Nordic Studies based in Orkney, said concerns had been privately raised to Serco NorthLink months ago.
She said the image had associations with Aryan propaganda used by the Nazis.
She said: “There is an Aryan element associated with the Vikings. We didn’t feel Serco NorthLink had perhaps projected the image they were intending.
“The artistic style they have chosen is very much of that early 20th-century aesthetic. They could perhaps have consulted more widely.”
The University of the Highlands and Islands academic said the imagery could cause a problem for German tourists and have negative overtones in other parts of Europe.
She said: “This could also be a problem for Scandinavian visitors, given their complex relationship with that ideology.
“They are very much a target audience for tourism in Orkney.”
The chairman of the Orkney Tourism Group, Gareth Crichton, urged Serco NorthLink to reconsider the move.
He said: “It just has connotations, certainly for some of our tour operators in middle Europe and also in Scandinavia, so the brand in itself has the potential to be a wee bit controversial.”
A spokeswoman at NorthLink said: “Launched in January, the Magnus icon forms part of our wider campaign to attract more visitors to the Northern Isles based on their unique history, landscape and visitor experience.
“The logo has received excellent feedback from passengers and the tourism industry.”
Serco NorthLink was hit by controversy earlier this week when it announced one of its fleet of five ferries, the MV Hamnavoe, will be out of action for more than a month, just as the tourist season in Orkney begins.
Last year the company was awarded the £243 million Transport Scotland contract to provide lifeline services to Orkney and Shetland over the next six years.