Tourists ar­rested for Nazi salute

Two Chi­nese men are the lat­est vis­i­tors to learn the ges­ture is ver­boten in Ger­many.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - BY ERIK KIRSCHBAUM Kirschbaum is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

BER­LIN — Two Chi­nese tourists dis­cov­ered the hard way that giv­ing the out­lawed “Hit­ler­gruss” — or Nazi salute — in front of the Re­ich­stag build­ing in Ber­lin is no laugh­ing mat­ter in Ger­many.

The two men, ages 49 and 36, were quickly de­tained af­ter po­lice spot­ted them tak­ing pic­tures of each other in front of the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar tourist spot Sat­ur­day while giv­ing the stif­farmed “Heil Hitler” greet­ing that is il­le­gal in Ger­many and pun­ish­able by up to three years in jail.

The tourists, who were re­leased af­ter post­ing a to­tal of $1,200 in bail set by a lo­cal judge, were the lat­est in a long line of for­eign­ers to run afoul of the strict laws out­law­ing not only the Hitler salute but all Nazi sym­bols.

The Nazi Party is banned in Ger­many. Its sym­bols, such as the Hitler salute and swastika, and im­agery can be used only for teach­ing, in films or his­tor­i­cal re­search, or in doc­u­men­taries or films sat­i­riz­ing the Nazis.

Two Bri­tish tourists were de­tained last year for the same of­fense as the Chi­nese tourists near the Re­ich­stag, and a 30-year-old Cana­dian tourist from Que­bec had to post $170 bail for per­form­ing the Hitler salute for a pic­ture of him­self taken by a Ger­man woman at the same lo- cale in 2011. Scores of po­lice and count­less se­cu­rity cam­eras mon­i­tor the Re­ich­stag build­ing around the clock.

“We def­i­nitely treat this and all sim­i­lar such cases as a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of the law,” said Pa­tri­cia Brae­mer, a spokes­woman for the Ber­lin po­lice. “The law ban­ning the use of sym­bols that vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tion ap­plies not only to Ger­mans but to every­one in Ger­many. Any­one com­ing here ought to know and re­spect the coun­try’s cus­toms.”

Although Ger­mans learn ex­ten­sively about the hor­rors of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, the Third Re­ich and the Holo­caust in school and through the me­dia, some Ger­mans also get into trou­ble for flash­ing the Hitler salute in pub­lic — think­ing at first it is just for a laugh or a light­hearted provo­ca­tion.

Two high school stu­dents from the north­ern city of Ro­s­tock were charged with dis­play­ing Nazi sym­bols for giv­ing the Hitler salute on a class trip to a his­tory mu­seum in Ber­lin this year.

They took pic­tures of each other giv­ing the salute while stand­ing in front of posters at the mu­seum show­ing Hitler and his pro­pa­ganda min­is­ter, Joseph Goebbels. When their teach­ers dis­cov­ered the pic­tures, they made the stu­dents delete them from their phones. But the school’s prin­ci­pal later turned the stu­dents over to po­lice.

“There are surely a lot more peo­ple around who give the Hitler salute than the po­lice see,” Brae­mer said. “But the pe­nal code is valid for every­one, and when we see it, we re­spond ac­cord­ingly.”

Some Ger­man po­lice of­fi­cers have also shown they are also not im­mune to try­ing to make in­ap­pro­pri­ate Nazi jokes.

One Ber­lin po­lice of­fi­cer as­signed to guard the Bri­tish Em­bassy was sus­pended in 2004 af­ter he gave a fel­low of­fi­cer the salute at the start of his shift and shouted, “Heil Hitler.”

In 2007, a Ber­lin man who taught his dog Adolf to give the “Hit­ler­gruss” on com­mand — the Ger­man shep­herd raised its right paw — was sen­tenced by a lo­cal court to five months in jail.

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