Two Chinese men on holiday in Berlin have just found out the hard way that Hitler salutes are no laughing matter.
The two tourists, aged 36 and 49, stopped to take pictures of each other striking the Nazi-era pose outside the Reichstag, which houses Germany’s lower house of parliament.
Police officers guarding historic sites in the area witnessed the incident, and hauled the two gentlemen off to the nearest police station.
Children performing the Bellamy salute to the flag of the United States
The two have been charged for “using symbols of illegal organizations”, and released after posting bail of 500 euros each, said Berlin police in a statement.
As many as 2 million Chinese tourists visit Germany each year, according to one estimate, but it is unlikely many are aware of the strict laws surrounding Nazi symbols in the country.
Back home in China, news of the incident was met with caustic commentary.
“How embarrassing for our people,” wrote one Weibo user. “So many brain-damaged people have no idea what Hitler and Nazis are all about.”
“Just check out Bilibili.com and you’ll find all sorts of Hitler antics,” he added, referring to an anime and manga website popular among teenagers and millennials in China.
“This is nothing,” another chimed in. “Here in China, you’ll find people dressed up as Red Guards and giving performances!”
As with all things Nazi-related, the Hitler salute wasn’t exactly invented by the Nazis.
Cadets give the Roman salute as they are formally inducted into the Public Security Police Force of Macau, as seen here in this picture from 2012.
The Roman salute, made with the arm held out forward straight, with palm down and fingers touching, traces its history back to at least the 18th century.
It soon became popular among Fascists in Italy before it was made compulsory within the Nazi party in 1926, and then adopted nationwide in Germany when the Nazis took power seven years later.
In the United States, the Bellamy salute was the hand gesture to accompany the Pledge of Allegiance starting in 1892. It was later replaced by the hand-over-heart gesture by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when its similarity to the Nazi salute became too politically inconvenient.
In Macau, the police force has retained the Roman salute, a holdover from the territory’s time as a Portuguese colony, even though the gesture has long fallen out of favour in Portugal itself.
In any case, it’s probably about time for that 64-page guidebook for Chinese tourists to finally be updated?