Hitler salute

Hitler salute

The Hitler salute ( _de. Hitlergruß), also known in Germany during World War II as the "Deutscher Gruß" (literally: "German Greeting"), or in English as the Nazi salute, is a variant of the Roman salute, adopted by the Nazi Party as a sign of loyalty to its leader Adolf Hitler. It was adopted following its use by supporters of Italian fascism, a political movement under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, and other mass movements of the era. The Hitler salute became the embodiment of Hitler's cult of personality throughout Nazi Germany.


For the Hitler salute the right arm is raised at an angle of about 45 degrees above the horizontal and slightly sideways to the right, and is almost always accompanied by the exclamation of the words "Heil Hitler!" said in a firm and usually loud voice. If standing in front of a superior the heels might be clicked simultaneously. At rallies and meetings the arms of the crowd may also be raised while rhythmically shouting "sieg Heil".


Use in the Third Reich

After 1945

The Roman salute, on which the Hitler salute is based, was used in many different countries for many different purposes before World War II. For example, the Bellamy salute, used as part of the United States Pledge of Allegiance in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was a version of the Roman salute with some similarities to the Nazi salute. The Bellamy salute has been abandoned since 1942 because of this similarity. The same happened to most other forms of the Roman salute used across the world. In Spain, the fascist salute is less common since 1975 when the dictatorship of Francisco Franco ended with his death, although it is still employed by neo-Falangist parties and groups.

Use of the salute and accompanying phrases has been forbidden by law in Germany and Austria since the end of World War II. Versions of the salute are used by neo-Nazis, who also use the number 88 to stand for "Heil Hitler" (the 8 standing for H, the eighth letter of the alphabet). One version is the so-called Kühnen salute with extended thumb, index and middle finger, also forbidden in Germany.

The salute has been emulated in fiction since 1945, being used as a non-verbal shorthand to distinguish the villains from the heroes. As an example, the Romulans (depicted as a fascist society) in the original television series (1966-69) use an upraised arm, palm down salute in several episodes, such as "The Enterprise Incident", and the evil versions of the Enterprise crew in the "mirror universe" of the episode, Mirror, Mirror gave a modified version of this salute, first bringing their fist to their chests then extending it outward Nazi-style.

atirical use

Satirical use of the salute dates back to anti-Nazi propaganda in Germany before 1933. The photomontage artist John Heartfield used Hitler's modified version, with the hand bent over the shoulder, in a poster that linked Hitler to Big Business. A giant figure representing right-wing with their hands raised in surrender under the caption, "They salute with both hands now."

During the war the allies also used the salute in satirical ways, often to poke fun at the Nazis. In Charlie Chaplin's film "The Great Dictator" (1940) the Hitler character ("Adenoid Hynkel") several times causes chaos while attempting to use the salute. Chaplin himself remarked that Hitler's "hand thrust backward made one want to place a tray of dirty dishes on it."

In the 1953 comedy-drama "Stalag 17", Colonel von Scherbach, the commandant of the titular POW camp, provides a copy of "Mein Kampf" to the barracks, so the camp can be indoctrinated in the "ways of the Führer." While being "indoctrinated," the POWs, all wearing fake Hitler moustaches, give a German sergeant the Nazi salute and shout "Sieg Heil!" The sergeant then comments "One Führer is enough."

After the war satirical usage continued, most notably in Stanley Kubrick's dark comedy "". The eponymous character is an expatriated former-Nazi scientist with Alien Hand Syndrome, the actions of which give away his subconscious thoughts (including choking himself and giving the salute). His left arm attempts to hold it down as it uncontrollably rises. This gesture has come to be used to suggest attempts to struggle against the open expression of neo-Nazi thoughts or urges. In modern culture the Hitler salute is sometimes used jocularly, but the humour is not always appreciated. It is often used to imply that the person being addressed is behaving like a "little Hitler" (i.e. a bully). In the United Kingdom it is common to signify the satirical nature of the salute by simultaneously placing the index finger of the left hand under one's nose as a parody of Hitler's moustache. This is portrayed in a famous episode from the comedy "Fawlty Towers" ("The Germans"). The words "Sieg Heil" and "Heil Hitler" are also used satirically in modern times, though they may be considered offensive. However, along with the salute, they have also been used to poke fun at Nazis, or to insinuate that someone may be acting like a dictator. The Swing Kids had a parody of the chant, "Swing Heil"".

The border between satirical and offensive usage of the term "Sieg Heil" is sometimes ambiguous, and comedians using it for humorous purposes have sometimes been accused of anti-semitism (see, for instance, Dieudonné M'bala M'bala's controversial "Isra-Heil" sketch).

The Stanford Band will give the Hitler Salute to the University of Southern California Spirit of Troy Marching Band. The Stanford Administration has not taken action against the band for this practice despite complaints from alumni and fans from both universities.

The satirical use of the salute is often coupled with an exaggerated goose-step, another Nazi gesture, as seen in the 2004 film, EuroTrip.

In the film American History X the salute is performed to taunt a character who is seen as being a racist zealot.

Another satirical reference is found in the film, "Alpha Dog". Heather Wahlquist, who plays the girlfriend of a Jewish man performs the salute in front of him, saying, "Heil!".

In the British sitcom "'Allo 'Allo!", set during World War II France, there is a different version of the salute; when a German soldier salutes the Italian counterpart, the Italian retorts with "Heil Mussolini"


ee also

* Roman salute
* Ave
* Bellamy salute
* Sieg Heil

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