The Nazi Salute…Really?

Students at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis are at the center of a controversy created when they posted a picture showing them making Nazi salutes to social media.

According to the Indianapolis Star,

Students at a private Indianapolis high school are in trouble for making the Nazi salute at the end of a class segment on the German language. It’s the latest example of intolerance and anti-Semitism at area schools….

The photo — taken in a World Languages classroom at Cathedral High School, a private college preparatory school on Indianapolis’ northeast side — shows 15 students holding the German flag and some raising their arms in the Nazi salute, a gesture used during German dictator Adolf Hitler’s reign, usually followed by some variant of the phrase “Heil Hitler!”

When the photo triggered a public outcry, officials of Cathedral released a statement saying, in part “We are having a meeting about cultural awareness with these students and their families regarding the poor choice they made in the picture and how offensive and hurtful this can be.”

Well, sorry, but “Heil Hitler” goes considerably beyond “offensive and hurtful.” Try ignorant and hateful.

I use the word ignorant advisedly, because if I had to guess, I’d attribute this incredible incident to Cathedral’s failure (shared by far too many schools, public and private alike) to actually teach their students history, among other subjects necessary to informed participation in civic life.

A few days ago, several people posted a video to Facebook showing a series of “person on the street” interviews conducted in New York’s Times Square. The young people who were stopped were asked questions that should have been no-brainers: “what countries fought in World War II?” “What was World War II about?” “Have you ever heard of Hitler?” To say that the answers were dispiriting would be a massive understatement. (If anyone has the link, I’d appreciate it; I couldn’t find it, and it really needs to be seen to be appreciated.)

Here in Indianapolis, as elsewhere, the Jewish community–through organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council–holds annual events intended to educate the broader community about the Holocaust. Survivors–all of whom are now quite elderly, so their ranks are thinning–are made available to speak to student groups and civic organizations. There are books and films and memorials, all with a single focus: to bear witness to Nazi atrocities, in the fervent hope that “never again” will human beings visit horrors of this magnitude on other human beings.

These efforts, however, require fertile ground in which to take root and promote understanding. An uneducated, uninterested and unaware population is impervious to such undertakings.

The best we can hope for in situations like the one at Cathedral is to discover that these young people had no idea what the Nazis did–that they acted out of ignorance rather than bigotry and hatred, and that some mandatory education might open their eyes to the evil they were celebrating.

If not–if they were aware of what the Nazis did and what the salute conveyed–they are frightening harbingers of a new dark age to come, and we are all in trouble.

There’s a reason that many of us who do know our history see incidents like this, and watch voters respond to Donald Trump’s blatant appeals to racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism (he “tells it like it is,” he isn’t “politically correct”) with cold chills and foreboding.

Santayana said it best: those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.


  1. When I saw the Cathedral story yesterday I thought of these students’ grandfathers or great-grandfathers who fought in WWII and how dismayed and sickened they would be to see their grandchildren acting that way. A field trip to Terre Haute should be mandatory for at least the students in the World Languages class at Cathedral, though preferably the whole school should go. JoAnn, I unfortunately remember Stan Solomon too well. He made a statement on his radio show shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, saying it was the parents’ faults their little children were killed because they put them in a Federal day care facility. Stan was fired from WIBC shortly thereafter.

  2. Check out history , people ! The so-called Nazi salute is REALLY the salute of the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE straight from Julius Creaser , himself. Hitler , whose real birth name was Schepplegrubber , changed his name to a NON Jewish name – Hitler. He WAS a Rothschild Zionist Jew by blood, and WAS christened a ROMAN CATHOLIC as a baby.

  3. This is also what we get when becoming good citizens is less important than training for math, science, and technology.

  4. Nancy, I think that both will be essential in the new world. One of the education mistakes that we make is telling high schoolers that if you’re not interested/capable/motivated/awake in science and math you don’t have to take any. We don’t give them that option in English or Social Studies or even gym.


  5. From above, “One of the education mistakes that we make is telling high schoolers that if you’re not interested/capable/motivated/awake in science and math you don’t have to take any.”

    Unsure what state has such guidelines, but it’s not Indiana. Before any student receives an Indiana High School Diploma, he/she must complete the Program of Studies as set forth by the IN Dept of Education.

    Indiana Course and Credit Requirements for High School Diploma

    *English/Language Arts 8 credits
    Including a balance of literature, composition, and speech.

    *Mathematics 6 credits (in grades 9-12)
    2 credits: Algebra I
    2 credits: Geometry
    2 credits: Algebra II
    Or complete Integrated Math I, II, and III for 6 credits.
    Students must take a math or quantitative reasoning course each year in high school

    *Science 6 credits
    2 credits: Biology I
    2 credits: Chemistry I or Physics I or Integrated Chemistry-Physics
    2 credits: any Core 40 science course

    *Social Studies 6 credits
    2 credits: U.S. History
    1 credit: U.S. Government
    1 credit: Economics
    2 credits: World History/Civilization or Geography/History of the World

    *Directed Electives 5 credits
    World Languages
    Fine Arts
    Career and Technical Education
    Physical Education 2 credits
    Health and Wellness 1 credit

    *Electives* 6 credits
    (College and Career Pathway courses recommended)

    *40 Total State Credits Required
    Schools may have additional local graduation requirements that apply to all students
    * Specifies the number of electives required by the state. High school schedules provide time for many more electives during the high school years. All students are strongly encouraged to complete a College and Career Pathway (selecting electives in a deliberate manner) to take full advantage of career and college exploration and preparation opportunities.

  6. BSH, good for Indiana. I wonder how more is offered to those who choose a science “major” in HS?

  7. Ummm, where was the World Languages teacher when this picture was taken? Is he/she equally ignorant, or did he/she find this equally ‘funny’?

    Completely bizarre; at my High School in the 80s two students were expelled for making the school look bad, for relatively minor infractions (drug possession, pregnancy). In this case I doubt there will be anything more than a scolding, which some of the parents will probably object to because their tender snowflake’s feelings were hurt.

  8. Let’s turn another story – any story it appears to be – into yet another Trump-bashing opportunity.

    I am a Jew, and a Latina, and an immigrant. I feel neither threatened, nor attacked by Donald Trump. As a Jew, I get exceedingly more attacked by the pseudo-intellectual left. As a Latina, I get attacked by the liberals who want to keep me down, through encouraging the use of government assistance because I-am-underpriviledged-by-skin-pigmentation. As an immigrant, I get attacked by the black democrats, who do not want to lose their cash-cow of eternal victims.

    Donald Trump advocates personal accountability. No excuses.

    The ignorant students are just a reflection of the rampant ignorance, and the undying antisemitism that pervades our world.

    Donald Trump antisemitic? That is preposterous and borderline slanderous.

  9. Over 400,000 Americans died in WW2, many of whom were not much older than the smug, priveleged brats in the picture. Maybe as an exercise they could write a letter to a parent, spouse, or child of one of the fallen, explaining why it is so funny to emulate Adolf Hitler and his followers.

  10. Let’s not forget the Nazi salute at Donald Trumps rally. He is normalizing fascism.

  11. Gail,

    “Let’s not forget the Nazi salute at Donald Trumps rally. He is normalizing fascism.”

    You’ve hit on the major point about the dangers of Donald Trump. It’s not that he’s another Hitler. He isn’t that talented.

    BUT HE IS NORMALIZING FASCISM. Trump didn’t create the fascism. The structure for it was designed over 45 years ago. It’s been rising floor by floor for all those years. Trump is like the “gorilla” on top of the Empire State Building in the movie—-“Mighty Joe Young ” (I believe that was the title). The finale of the movie was when the gorilla was successfully attacked by a SWARM of biplanes and finally killed.

  12. After a little more thought. I believe the movie was “King Kong” (1933) not “Mighty Joe Young”(1949). I went to the movies a lot when I was a kid. Admission only cost 9 cents at the San Marco Theater on the Southside of Jacksonville. Monster movies were very much in vogue back then.

    Sorry for the mix-up

  13. These are kids and they are stupid, young, and impulsive. They need no more punishment than they have suffered already.

  14. Come on, Sheila – this is just a German class, not a Hitler youth group! I think you jumped too much on this one

  15. Sandy Koss,

    “Come on, Sheila – this is just a German class, not a Hitler youth group! I think you jumped too much on this one”

    I guess I should take it from your suggestion that Sheila shouldn’t speak out until the German Class becomes a conduit for the Hitler Youth Group. Is that the advice you’re advocating?

    By the way, what are your credentials to put you in such a superior position to challenge Sheila on anti-Semitism? I for one would like to hear about it.

  16. Marv; doesn’t Sandy Koss’ comment remind you of all those “good Germans” who had no idea the Holocaust was going on around them? Didn’t notice Nazi troops hauling away their neighbors – those they didn’t realize were Jews – didn’t ask what that smell in the air was or where that smoke was coming from? That deliberate ignorance gave Hitler his foothold which he placed on the neck of most of Europe as he methodically tried to destroy all he didn’t agree with. That same same deliberate ignorance of Americans supporting Trump have given him his foothold on the presidential election and, if elected, he will set out to destroy all he doesn’t agree with. And his list is lengthy.

    That picture should be a wake up call to parents and school authorities as well as the public; we can only hope the publicity doesn’t drive those views underground where it will germinate and proliferate everyone around them. It is not a minor event; it is a sign of the times. Now the NRA has thrown their weight behind Trump; Pence spoke at the NRA Convention in Kentucky reminding them that Indiana is the heartland of America – and NRA ideals. I have lost count of the shootings in Indianapolis this week, but it continues to rise.

  17. JoAnn,

    “I have lost count of the shootings in Indianapolis this week, but it continues to rise.”

    You’re right on all aspects. Recently, I’ve been reading up on why the rest of the Blog can’t see the “writing on the wall” like we both can. It’s that they don’t have the same understanding that we do from our close experiences in the African-American community.

    It’s likewise a problem for Sheila from her experiences with anti-Semitism, which has come at her not only because she is a Jew but also because she is as a world-class advocate for freedom of speech.

    One of the factors in the escalation of the shootings is the mutation of the SUBSURFACE virulent anti-Semitism onto the African-Ameican community which only compounds an otherwise mounting, out of control problem.

    Nazis don’t like Jews or African-Americans. Both hatreds are now merging as they did in Nazi Germany in the 30’s. Much of the graphic propaganda in that era pictured Jews as African-Americans or vice versa.

  18. Marv Kramer and Joann Green,

    your comments ut-supra sound condescending and dismissive of those of us who are not prone to drama and conspiracy theories. Risking my comments sounding like ad-hominem attacks, I challenge you to list the instances in which Donald Trump has shown antisemitic and/or nazist inclinations. This goes for Sheila Kennedy as well.

    As a Jew, I cannot find any, but, being that it seems to be open season for liberals to insult, demean, and throw stones at conservatives, you’re doing a disservice to the democratic process. Unless, of course, you can prove that your accusations are true, which I doubt.

  19. Here are just a few. In the first, although the story focuses on his supporters, it includes his refusal to condemn them.

    From Jewish Virtual Library:

    Although Trump’s daughter converted to Judaism in 2009, is married to a Jewish man, observes Shabbat and keeps a Kosher diet, Trump has been known to make anti-Semitic comments. In a 1991 book written by a former close colleague of Trump, the real-estate mogul is quoted as saying, “the only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” During a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition on December 3, 2015, Trump depended on age-old Jewish stereotypes to relate to the crowd and get his message across. Trump commented that he is a, “negotiator… like you folks,” and asked the crowd, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals?” Trump added that he thinks that the Jewish people are not going to support him because “I don’t want your money. And you want to control your own politicians.” These comments sparked backlash from Israeli news agencies, with the Times of Israel running a headline the next day that read,“Trump courts Republican Jews with offensive stereotypes.”

    A simple Google search will identify many more.

  20. Martina,

    “Marv Kramer and Joann Green,

    Your comments ut-supra sound condescending and dismissive of those of us who are not prone to drama and conspiracy theories”

    You sound like Rip Van Winkle. Notwithstanding the truth about Donald Trump, what do you think the Tea Party is all about?

  21. By the way, this is from Wikipedia:

    Hermann Göring’s godfather was Dr. Hermann Epenstein, a wealthy Jewish physician and businessman his father had met in Africa. Epenstein provided the Göring family, who were surviving on Heinrich’s pension, first with a family home in Berlin-Friedenau,[5] then in a small castle called Veldenstein, near Nuremberg. Göring’s mother became Epenstein’s mistress around this time, and remained so for some fifteen years. Epenstein acquired the minor title of Ritter von Epenstein through service and donations to the Crown.[

    Goring was the second most important Nazi convicted at Nuremberg. His relationship with his Jewish godfather did little to curb his instincts which were vital in the extermination of between five and six million Jews.

    Before anyone starts, I’m not comparing Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler or Hermann Goring.
    All I’m trying to say is—please don’t take much stock in the fact that Trump’s daughter converted to Judaism because of her marriage to a Jew.

  22. Sheila, people can use silly stereotypes in a dumb and inappropriate fashion, and still not be a nazi. Just like Obama hastily said that the Cambridge cops were stupid, or Bernie Sanders being demagogically anti-Israel.

    Those dumb comments don’t make Obama anti-cop or Sanders a Hamas minion.

    Your writing is articulate, but pulling the Trump-will-be-the-demise-of-democracy card is asinine.

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