Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Hitler Salute

The Hitler Salute

On the Meaning of a Gesture

Tilman Allert

Metropolitan Books




A strikingly original investigation of the origins and dissemination of the world's most infamous greeting

Sometimes the smallest detail reveals the most about a culture. In Heil Hitler: The History of a Gesture, sociologist Tilman Allert uses the Nazi transformation of the most mundane human interaction—the greeting—to show how National Socialism brought about the submission and conformity of a whole society.

Made compulsory in 1933, the Hitler salute developed into a daily reflex in a matter of mere months, and quickly became the norm in schools, at work, among friends, and even at home. Adults denounced neighbors who refused to raise their arms, and children were given tiny Hitler dolls with movable right arms so they could practice the pernicious salute. The constantly reiterated declaration of loyalty at once controlled public transactions and fractured personal relationships. And always, the greeting sacralized Hitler, investing him and his regime with a divine aura.

The first examination of a phenomenon whose significance has long been underestimated, Heil Hitler offers new insight into how the Third Reich's rituals of consent paved the way for the wholesale erosion of social morality.



In 1937 Samuel Beckett took an extended trip to Germany. As he was walking through the streets of Regensburg, Bavaria, on March 3, a sign above the portal of the Dominican church caught his attention. He noted in his travel diary:...


Praise for The Hitler Salute

“Stirring… Allert's The Hitler Salute, a joyously sharp account of a massively evil slice of human history, doesn't treat the Nazis' obligatory two-word, one-arm greeting as a product of evil, but as its enabler. He argues, movingly, that the salute wounded Germans' sociability, connectedness, and personal sovereignty, warping the holy human order.” —The New York Observer

“The natural counterpart to the oft-used, darkly ironic quip ‘there's no business like Shoah business' is that nothing sells quite like the Nazis. Tilman Allert's slim, understated book, however, has no part in that cottage industry.… With its analytic punch and range of fresh insights, The Hitler Salute offers a novel contribution to what frequently appears to be an old, tired--and, alas, tiresome--discussion of the Third Reich.” —Bookforum

“Tilman Allert encourages us to look at the microcosmic world of greetings to see how social mores decay… The Hitler salute was not only a stark indication of the extent to which ideology intruded into the most pedestrian routines of everyday life but, according to Allert, also served to ‘silence a nation's moral scruples.'” —The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Insightful… Allert's book shows how much can be gained from a close study of the daily rituals we barely think about yet are packed with meaning.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A compact, lucid study of the Third Reich's preferred greeting… Straightforward in its analysis yet profound in its conclusions, this uncommon selection sheds elusive light on the question of how Nazi ideology managed to penetrate even the most ordinary social interactions.” —Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Tilman Allert

Tilman Allert is a professor of sociology and social psychology at the University of Frankfurt. This is the first of his books to appear in English.

Tilman Allert

From the Publisher

Metropolitan Books

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