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Adolf Hitler at a Nazi party rally in Nuremberg,late 1920s, performing the salute. Hermann Göring is standing in front of Hitler.

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

Contents

Description

For the Hitler salute, it was customary for people who belong to the same social group to raise the right arm at an angle so that the palm becomes visible. The appropriate phrase that went with it is Sieg Heil or at least Heil. If one saw an acquaintance at a distance, it sufficed to simply raise the right hand. If one encountered a superior, then the right hand was to be fully stretched out, raised to eye-level and at the same time say Sieg Heil.[1] If physical disability prevented the use of the raising of the right arm, then it was correct to carry out the Greeting with the left arm.[2]

Origins and adoption

A picture from the Illustrated Exhibitor (1852) portraying a reconstruction of the installation ceremony of an early German king
People of Eger greet German soldiers with the Hitler salute in October 1938
Raised hands in a salute to the swastika on a German stamp commemorating the 1936 Nuremberg Rally.

The gesture is commonly perceived to be based on a classical Roman custom.[3] But no Roman work of art displays this salute, nor does any Roman text describe it.[3]

Beginning with Jacques-Louis David's painting The Oath of the Horatii (1784), an association of the gesture with Roman republican culture emerged through 18th century French art.[3]:42-56 The association with ancient Roman traditions was further developed in popular culture through late nineteenth and early twentieth century plays and films.[3]:70-101 These including the epic Cabiria (1914), whose screenplay was attributed to Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio.[3] In a case of life imitating art, d'Annunzio appropriated the salute as a neo-imperial ritual when he led the occupation of Fiume in 1919.[4] It was soon adopted by the Italian Fascist party.[4] By the autumn of 1923, the Nazis borrowed from the Italian Fascists the rigid, outstretched right arm salute with which they greeted their leader, with the leader responding by raising his own right hand, but crooked back the elbow, palm opened upwards, in a gesture of acceptance.[5]

The salute, sporadically used by the Nazi Party since 1923, was made compulsory within the movement in 1926.[2] Called the Hitler salute or Hitler greeting, it functioned both as an expression of commitment within the party and as a demonstrative statement to the outside world.[6] Yet in spite of this demand for the outward display of obedience, the drive to gain acceptance did not go unchallenged, even within the movement.[6]

Party members objected to its resemblance to the Roman salute employed by Fascist Italy, and challenged its legitimacy on the grounds that it was not Germanic.[6] In response, efforts were made to establish its pedigree and invent a tradition after the fact.[6]

Rudolph Hess published an article titled "The Fascist Greeting" in June 1928, claiming that the gesture was used as early as 1921, before the Nazi's had heard about the Italian Fascists.[6] He admits in the article that "The NSDAP's introduction of the raised-arm greeting approximately two years ago still gets some people's blood boiling. Its opponents suspect the greeting of being un-Germanic. They accuse it of merely aping the (Italian) Fascists".[6] He goes on to ask "and even if the decree from two years ago (Hess's order that all party members use it) is seen as an adaption of the Fascist gesture, is that really so terrible"?[6] Ian Kershaw points out that Hess did not deny the likely influence from Fascist Italy, even if indeed the salute had been used sporadically in 1921 as Hess claimed.[7]

Evidence for a Germanic origin is scant. A raised arm gesture was depicted in a nineteenth century illustration of the installation of an ancient Germanic kings.[8]. The modern Brockhaus Encyclopedia repeats the claims of a Germanic origin for the salute, stating that "the Nazi salute was derived from the Late Germanic Time".[9]

The compulsory use of the Hitler greeting for all public employees followed a directive issued by Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick on July 13, 1933, one day before the ban on all non-Nazi parties.[2]:60 The decree also required the use of the salute during the singing of the national anthem and the Horst-Wessel-Lied. A rider to the decree, added two weeks later, stipulated that if physical disability prevented the use of the raising of the right arm, "then it is correct to carry out the Greeting with the left arm."[2]

Use in the Third Reich

Spectators at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin giving the Hitler salute when the Führer entered the Olympic Stadium
Before 1944, Wehrmacht used traditional salute in most situations, not the Hitler salute. Pictured General von Stülpnagel - a member of the July 20 Plot.

From 1933 to 1945 the Hitler salute was the common German greeting. Heil Hitler! ("Hail Hitler!")[10] was used when directly addressing a citizen, or, in the Waffen-SS, a higher ranking officer. Hitler himself preferred to be addressed with "Heil, mein Führer!" (Hail, my Leader) or simply "Heil!", as addressing him with "Hitler" would be in third person.

Sieg Heil! ("Hail victory!") was a common Nazi chant at rallies, especially after the speeches of Hitler. Usually the words would be repeated three times to form the chant "sieg...Heil! sieg...Heil! sieg...Heil!"

The Wehrmacht refused to adopt the Hitler salute and was able for a time to maintain its own customs.[6]:80-82 A compromise edict from the Reich Defense Ministry, released on September 19, 1933, required the Hitler salute of soldiers and uniformed civil servants while singing the Horst Wessel Lied and national anthem, and in non-military encounters (for example, when greeting members of the civilian government). All other times they were to use their traditional salutes.[6] Only after the July 20 Plot in 1944, were the military forces of the Third Reich ordered to replace the standard military salute with the Hitler salute.[6] The order went into effect on 24 July 1944, four days after the attempt on Hitler's life in Rastenburg,[6] however, many units chose to ignore this order and continued to use the traditional salute.

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 capitalists stands behind Hitler, placing money in his hand, suggesting "backhand" donations. The caption is, "the meaning of the Hitler salute" and "Millions stand behind me". After the Night of the Long Knives, cartoonist David Low, a longtime foe of Hitler, drew a cartoon showing terrified storm troopers with their hands raised in surrender under the caption, "They salute with both hands now." Since "heil" is also the imperative of "heal" in German, a common joke in Nazi Germany was to reply with "Is he sick?", "Am I a doctor?" or "You heal him!"[6]:44 However, such a joke could land the joker in jail.

After 1945

Raised arms to salute the neo-nazi band Batallón de Castigo (Punishment Battalion)

Use of the salute and accompanying phrases has been forbidden by law in Germany and Austria since the end of World War II. Section 86 of the German Penal Code provides for punishment of up to three years in prison for anyone using the salute, unless it is used in a manner that is clearly ironic or critical of the regime.[6]:94 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).[6] One version is the so-called Kühnen salute with extended thumb, index and middle finger, also forbidden in Germany.[11] the nazi salute is also used by the Ku Klux Klan

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Grunberger, Richard (1995). The 12-year Reich: a social history of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 (illustrated ed.). Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306806606, 9780306806605.  
  2. ^ a b c d Kershaw, Ian (2001). The "Hitler myth": image and reality in the Third Reich (2, reissue ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 26. ISBN 0192802062, 9780192802064.  
  3. ^ a b c d e Winkler, Martin M. (2009). The Roman Salute: Cinema, History, Ideology. Columbus: Ohio State University Press,. ISBN 0814208649, 9780814208649.  
  4. ^ a b Falasca-Zamponi, Simonetta (2000). Fascist spectacle: the aesthetics of power in Mussolini's Italy. Studies on the history of society and culture. 28 (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. pp. 110–113. ISBN 0520226771, 9780520226777.  
  5. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). "The Rize of Nazism". The Coming of the Third Reich (reprint, illustrated ed.). Penguin Group. pp. 184–185. ISBN 0143034693, 9780143034698.  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Allert, Tilman; Translated by Jefferson Chase (April 2009). "5". The Hitler Salute: On the Meaning of a Gesture (Picador ed.). Picador. pp. 54–58. ISBN 0312428308, 9780312428303.  
  7. ^ Kershaw, Ian (2000). Hitler, 1889-1936: hubris (illustrated ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 294,689. ISBN 0393320359, 9780393320350.  
  8. ^ According to the Illustrated Exhibitor, the reconstruction of such ceremonies among the Gauls and Germans was undertaken by Augustin Thierry. Illustrated Exhibitor, 1852, vol. 1., pp.165-6
  9. ^ "Der Nazi-Gruß war aus der spätgermanischen Zeit hergeleitet"; Brockhaus Encyclopedia, 1989,vol. 9, p. 604
  10. ^ It is worth noting that the German word "Heil" included the meaning "good health" (comparable to the English word "hale"). These have disappeared from the English "hail", which now simply means "greetings", despite its original identity with the German word. One German joke from the war-era played on this identity: "Heil Hitler!" / "I can't, heal him yourself."
  11. ^ "Kühnengruß oder sechs Bier bei FPÖ-Parteitag?" (in German). Kleine Zeitung. 27 May, 2009. http://www.kleinezeitung.at/nachrichten/politik/1989141/index.do. Retrieved 2009-08-27.   Second paragraph The Kühnengruß is regarded as a variation of the Hitler salute. In the right arm with three fingers spread is stretched. In Austria, unlike Germany, the salute is not prohibited.







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