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Published on : Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The Reichstag is a great attraction for tourists since it brims with German history. The meeting place of the Imperial Diet, it was torched in 1933 in a calamity that contributed to Hitler’s rise and wasn’t reconstructed until after reunification more than half a century later.
According to the police, recently, 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 Hitler under the Third Reich. The German Constitution, approved after the Second World War, makes it a criminal offense, along with Holocaust denial and other symbols and signals associated with the Nazis.
Many European nations also prohibit 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.
The two men giving the salutes 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. Conviction can result in imprisonment of up to three years.
In 2011, a 30-year-old Canadian tourist was detained after being photographed giving the Nazi salute outside the Reichstag. He was released after a fine.
European capitals are popular destinations for tourists from China, and countries like Germany eagerly welcome these visitors. Next year has been dubbed the EU-China Tourism Year, part of an initiative developed by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang.
The government in Beijing has expressed concerns over embarrassing behavior by the Chinese tourists traveling abroad, and has tried to persuade travelers to respect local laws and customs.