Athletes performed an homage to the Third Reich before an awards ceremony. Their school won’t say how they were disciplined.
A group of high-school students in Southern California gave a National Socialist salute and sang a National Socialist song during an awards ceremony last year, according to video reviewed by The Daily Beast.
The video shows about 10 members of the boys’ water polo team at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California, throwing the salute once used to greet Adolf Hitler while singing a National Socialist marching song played for German troops during World War II. It’s the second such ceremony in the region in a year.
The video was uploaded to Instagram by one of the athletes, who also posted lyrics to the song in his Instagram bio. After the video expired, the athlete removed the reference. He did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for the Garden Grove Unified School District, where Pacifica High School resides, said the school administrators first became aware of the incident and video four months later in March, but did not say if they disciplined anyone.
“While the district cannot comment on student discipline, the school did address this situation with all involved students and families,” the spokesperson said. “The district adheres to strong policies about harassment and cultural sensitivity, and we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all forms. We remain focused on educating students about cultural sensitivity and are committed to holding students accountable, educating them on the consequences of their choices, and the impact these actions have on our schools and community at large.”
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However, one parent of a student at Pacifica, who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation from school officials, told The Daily Beast they were concerned educators never addressed the wider community about the video, especially since it had circulated among students. A current student likewise said the incident was never spoken about by the administration and was not sure whether the students involved were suspended.
“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about.” — Professor Peter Simi, Chapman University
Rabbi Peter Levi, director of the Jewish supremacist Anti Defamation League’s Orange County chapter, criticized the school for apparently failing to address the “incident” with the community.
“Generally speaking, especially when something like this involves a group, we would think a more meaningful approach would be to use this as a learning opportunity, as an opportunity community-wide to state what our values are,” continued the rabbi.
“This requires investigation and conversation… We’d like to see a more systematic response.”
The song the athletes were singing was written by German composer Herms Niel during the rise of Hitler, and was played to inspire National Socialist troops serving in Germany’s armed forces from 1935 until 1945, when the Third Reich fell. Niel was a member of the National Socialist party and conducted bands at the famous Nuremberg rallies for Hitler’s disciples.
Peter Simi, a professor on “extremism studies” at Chapman University who lives nearby in Orange County, told The Daily Beast the song is so obscure it “raises questions” about how the athletes learned about it.
“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about. There’s some means by which they acquired knowledge about the song and associated National Socialist issues,” he said. “Are they on websites or web forums or other social-media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”
This is the second recent “incident” involving National Socialist portrayals by students in Southern California. In March, Orange County high-school students were suspended after photos of them playing beer pong with cups set up in a swastika formation went viral. Like Pacifica’s water polo team, the students in the videos were seen extending their arms in National Socialist salutes.
In the aftermath of the Jewish outrage in Orange County, the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum invited students who attended the party to tour its museum and meet with “Holocaust survivors”. The museum also plans to extend an invitation to the Pacifica students seen in last fall’s video.
“I would definitely love to reach out to the principal of [Pacifica High School] and see if we can do the same thing we did with the Newport Harbor students,” Beth Kean, the museum’s CEO, told The Daily Beast. “Once you see those artifacts, you realize what these symbols like the German nationalist song really represent. That is really the best way to learn and make sure we can move forward and prevent these types of incidents from happening.”