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The Hitler figurine from Nuremberg
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Shirker's Alley-Munich
photo by Rhonda Spivak

photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, July 24, 2016



When I was in Nuremberg in 2013, I  walked into a toy store and  purchased what to my amazement was an Adolf Hitler figure, a collectors items from the Nazi period on display. I was rather shocked to see Hitler figurines, “collectors” items from the Nazi period out on display just like anything else, and  the older female shopkeeper's eyes lit up as she pulled one of the Hitler figurines from the shelf, turned to me, held up the Hitler figurine and   said "'De Fuhrer, De Fuhrer" (Fuhrer means leader). I bought the more expensive  Hitler figurine whose right arm could go up so that a salute could be given. It was arresting to see it , and instead of telling people about it, I figured it would be much easier just to be able to shown them.(see photo)


It is only now however that I have learned  just exactly what the origins of this Adolf Hitler figurine is. I happened to be browsing the very educational new book by Refael Medoff and Craig Yoe, Cartoonists Against the Holocaust, When I came upon an explanation of the Hitler figurine I have. As the authors write" As part of the Nazis effort to entrench the Hitler salute in the national culture German children were given three- inch tall plastic figurines of Hitler with a moveable right arm [emphasis added]. German housewife Helga Hartmann, who apparently did not receive the Hitler action figurine, recalled how at age five, she and a seven year old cousin were sent by their mother to the local post office. We went in and said Guten Morgen (Good Morning). The post office lady scowled at us and sent us back outside with the words. 'Don't come back  until you've learned your manners...the post office lady led us back to the door, and showed us how, upon entering a public building , you were to salute the Fuhrer. That's my memory of the 'Heil Hitler!" and it's stayed with me to this day."  



The Hitler figurine I purchased was in a shop near an artisan area nearby the Hotel Deutcher Kaiser in Nuremberg, where Adolf Hitler used to stand on the balcony and inspect the passing Nazi troops and wave to adoring fans. 


Realizing now that this Hitler figurine was made to help entrench the Hitler salute in the minds of German children, it makes sense that of all places I found this figurine still for sale in Nuremberg, of all places.  It was in Nuremberg in the 1930's that millions of Nazi party supporters gathered for mass rallies where they would salute Hitler before he would deliver fanatical speeches as he prepared Germany for war. 


The other place I thought of the "Nazi salute" while travelling in Germany was in Munich, when I visited  what is known as " "Federenhalle" and "Shirkers Alley"

The arched Federenhalle (Field Marshall's Hall) is the site of Hitler's failed putch attempt on Nov 9 1923, where there was a confrontation between Bavarian State Police and an illegally organized march by followers of Hitler, in what was an attempt by the Nazis to take over the Bavarian state. The marchers did not stop when ordered by Bavarian police to do so and  in the ensuing gun battle sixteen marchers and four policement were killed. Many more were wounded, including Hitler and Hermann Goering. Hitler was arrested and sentenced  to a prison term in Landsberg prison, where he wrote Mein Kampf which he dictated to inmate Rudolph Hess. When Hitler rose to power a decade later in 1933, he made this the site of his annual  march to commemorate the event. A Nazi eagle was placed on the site and two SS guards were placed at the site around the clock. Pedestrians had to give the Nazi salute in order to pass by. 
Those who didn't want to give a Nazi salute would walk down a little alley  behind the Nazi eagle monument, Viscardigasse,  known as "Shirker's alley" with its bronze stones.  The alley isn't marked in any way, and it would be very easy to miss seeing it , but my guide pointed it out . According to the website Traces of Evil, "In 1998, bronze stones were places to commemorate this 18 metres in length and 30 metres in width, designed by Bruno Wank." 
And my guide was also careful to mention that in Germany today the Nazi salute is a criminal offense,(It is also illegal in Austria and the Czech Republic).
The origins of  Hiter's Nazi salute are thought to have been Roman, used by Italian fascists  who promised to restore Italy to the glories of Rome.  In  Hitler's mind there was a parallel between the salute he demanded and the salute demanded by the great Roman conquerer Ceasar..
Hitler however did not want to be seen as adopting a salute that was non-German in origin so he manufactured a German angle to the salute, recorded in  Hitler's Table Talk (Jan 3, 1942): 

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!"

As Jesse Guy Ryan has written about Hitler's explanation above,"There is no historical evidence regarding the use of a “German salute” to greet Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms—but Luther’s supporters did hope that his appearance at the diet would help loosen Rome’s political power over Germany at the time. It’s possible Hitler chose his fabrication to subtly undermine the idea that the salute was Roman in heritage."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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