The Reichstag is a magnet for tourists because it brims with German history. The meeting place of the Imperial Diet, it was torched in 1933 in a calamity that quickened Hitler’s rise and wasn’t reconstructed until after reunification more than half a century later.
On Saturday, according to police, two Chinese tourists standing outside the building began giving Nazi salutes. They were briefly detained, accused of violating a German law that seeks to keep the Reichstag’s darkest chapter from repeating itself.
The salute — with the right arm straight and angled slightly up, palm down — was used as a greeting and a way of expressing devotion to Adolf Hitler under the Third Reich. The German Constitution, approved after World War II, makes it a criminal offense, along with Holocaust denial and other symbols and signals associated with the Nazis.
Several other European nations also ban the gesture. Switzerland’s Supreme Court last week upheld the conviction of a man who had performed the “Heil Hitler!” salute outside a synagogue in Geneva.
Police guarding the Reichstag, which today is the seat of the lower house of the German Parliament, saw the two tourists, aged 36 and 49, taking photographs of each other giving the salute, according to a police statement.
The two men were taken to a nearby police precinct and questioned. They were released on bail of 500 euros, or nearly $600, each.
A criminal investigation will continue, though the tourists are being permitted to leave the country with their tour group, a police spokeswoman said Sunday. Conviction can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
SOURCE: Isaac Stanley-Becker
The Washington Post