German salute

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Deutscher Gruß (German salute) in the German Reich.jpg

The German salute (German: Deutscher Gruß; literally "German Greeting") was the salute of the National Socialists, which, as many sources claim, seems to have originated from the Roman salute, although other sources deny this. The salute is still used in the 21st century, sometime as indication of a deepfelt views by nationalist organisations around the world, sometimes as pure provocation because of it's taboo status.


Festive reception for Hanna Reitsch (with the German salute) in her hometown; in the background Gauleiter Karl Hanke.

NSDAP period

The "German salute", which is the official term, is also known as the Hitlergruß (literally "Hitler Greeting"), it is also derogatorily known as the "Nazi salute". The greeting symbol or salute was predominantly combined with saying or calling "Heil Hitler!" (Hail Hitler!), "Heil, mein Führer!" (Hail, my leader!), or "Sieg Heil!" (Hail victory!). The Italian fascists also used a very similiar salute, but, as Hitler claims, after the young NSDAP introduced it. Hitler in "Hitler's Table Talk" (German: Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier):

I made it the salute of the Party long after the Duce had adopted it. I’d read the description of the sitting of the Diet of Worms, in the course of which Luther was greeted with the German salute. It was to show him that he was not being confronted with arms, but with peaceful intentions. In the days of Frederick the Great, people still saluted with their hats, with pompous gestures. In the Middle Ages, the serfs humbly doffed their bonnets, whilst the noblemen gave the German salute. It was in the Ratskeller at Bremen, about the year 1921, that I first saw this style of salute. It must be regarded as a survival of an ancient custom, which originally signified: “See, I have no weapon in my hand!” I introduced the salute into the Party at our first meeting in Weimar. The SS at once gave it a soldierly style. It’s from that moment that our opponents honored us with the epithet “dogs of Fascists”.

When not giving, but receiving the salute, Hitler, in the later years, and a few of the NS leaders, like Herman Göring, would accept with a passive salute, the right arm not outstretched, instead angled with the right hand over the right shoulder. This, especially by "The Führer", was due to age and great effort. At the Nuremberg rallies and other events, he would have to salute over and over again over the period of hours.

After World War II

After the Second World War, the salute, like the swastika, was seen as National Socialist and, accordingly, its use is attributed to a positive attitude towards National Socialism. In many countries, use is punishable by law or can lead to social consequences


Usage of the NS greeting in the Federal Republic of Germany

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the use of the salute is punishable as a "symbol of unconstitutional organization"[1] since the NSDAP is listed as one of these.[2] Even the public dissemination of the abbreviation NSDAP (e.g. T-shirts) can be illegal.[3]

Exceptions are the usage of NSDAP symbols for purposes of "civic education" (e.g. in school lessons), to defend against "unconstitutional" efforts (e.g. in "constitutional" protection brochures), for the purposes of art (e.g. in an exhibition on National Socialist art), science (in a book on National Socialism), research or teaching (e.g. at universities) or mass media reporting on current events or history (e.g. in television programs on the National Socialist era or current nationalist movements).

However, these exceptions do not apply if the "civic enlightenment" has a positive attitude towards National Socialism.

German Democratic Republic

In the former German Democratic Republic, the gesture was punishable as being of a "fascist/national socialist character"[4] without exceptions.

United States

The Bellamy salute and the Olympic salute are similar salutes, possibly with the same believed Ancient Roman origin, both predating the National Socialist salute and used in association with the American Pledge of Allegiance and the Olympic Games, but are now no longer used due to the similarity.[5]

Nevertheless, its use is not punishable by law due to the freedom of speech and expression that exists there, but it can lead to social distancing.[6]


See also

External links


  1. §86a of the German Criminal Code
  2. §86 of the German Criminal Code
  3. OLG Hamm NStZ-RR 2004, 12; Steinmetz NStZ 2004, 444; Stegbauer JR 2002, 186
  4. In German: Criminal Code of the German Democratic Republic
  5. The Olympic Salute We Don’t Use Anymore Because it Looked too Much Like Heiling Hitler
  6. West Virginia prison cadets fired over Nazi salute
  7. This salute is used not due to a strong belief in Fascism or National Socialism, but exclusively to provoke the Jews of Israel, who want the world to judge this gesture as a "Holocaust taboo".
  8. Students Who Made Apparent Nazi Salute in Photo Won’t Be Punished, New York Times, 24 November 2018