There’s an important reason Kiss albums, posters and T-shirts look different in Germany.
For more than four decades, the band’s logo has been changed to avoid unintended and unwanted comparisons to the “s-bolts” logo of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary Schutzstaffel forces. Specifically, the last two letters in Kiss’ moniker have had their usually pointy tops and bottoms flattened into straight horizontal lines for all commercial uses in the country.
You can see the German version of the Kiss logo on dozens of the band’s album covers below.
This change is done to avoid conflict with Section 86a of Strafgesetzbuch, the German criminal code, which declares that anybody who “domestically distributes or publicly uses” symbols from the Nazi Party shall be subject to a fine or even imprisonment.
According to Gene Simmons, the issue initially reared its head during the band’s first brief overseas tour, in 1976. “[That] was when the first strains of people calling us Nazis began,” he said in Kiss: Behind the Mask. “It was the most ridiculous thing.”
He added that between himself and Paul Stanley, “Kiss is 50 percent Jewish.” Simmons’ mother was detained in a concentration camp; Stanley’s mother and her family narrowly escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing for the Czech border in 1935. “She was strong,” Simmons said of his mom when presented with documents related to her release in May 2020. “She fought all of this on her own.”
“Despite what people say, I wasn’t thinking of the SS,” Ace Frehley, the band’s former guitarist, explained about his initial design for the band’s logo. “I was thinking more of lightning bolts.”
Over the years, Frehley has been accused by Simmons and Stanley of having a fascination with Nazi memorabilia. In a 2011 MTV interview, he admitted that the Nazis “did have the coolest clothes,” but the guitarist also noted, “I want to go on record saying that I don’t believe in Hitler or his ideology or anything he stood for. … [The logo] wasn’t modeled after Hitler or Nazis. It was just cool lightning bolts.”
Stanley, who is credited with adding the final modifications to Frehley’s original design, said he tried to make the band’s logo more distinct from the SS version. “Ace’s concept was closer to the Nazi SS,” he declared in 2014’s Face the Music. “My father never liked our logo because he thought my version was still too close to the Nazi lightning bolts. But for me it didn’t hit home until years later, when I learned our logo was banned in Germany because Nazi imagery was illegal there. … I certainly never intended to court controversy at the expense of victims of history.”
Even the gigantic lighted sign the band used during its shows was changed for concerts in Germany, as you can see at the 6:16 mark of the video below.
More recently, the band’s original logo has been used in Germany: Stage photos and videos from 2015 and 2019 performances show the Kiss logo familiar to the rest of the world on video screens, drum kits and balloons.
Still, both the band’s 2019 greatest-hits compilation, Kissworld, and posters for the German stops on the band’s 2019-20 End of the Road farewell tour include the modified version of the logo.