Europe

Nazi salutes land Chinese tourists in hot water in Germany

Nazi salutes land Chinese tourists in hot water in Germany
The Reichstag. AFP file photo
Published: 8:25 AM, August 7, 2017

BERLIN — Like millions of visitors to Germany each year, two Chinese tourists made their way this weekend to the Reichstag, seat of the lower house of Parliament, where they snapped photos of themselves outside the historic building.

But the two tourists were hauled off to a Berlin police station after running afoul of decades-old laws forbidding the use of outlawed symbols and gestures — like those used by Hitler and his followers.

According to the police, the two snapped cellphone photos of each other making a Nazi salute outside the Reichstag — an illegal act witnessed by police officers assigned to guard the numerous historic sites in the area.

The unidentified tourists, 36 and 49, were charged early Saturday (Aug 5) under post-1945 laws.

While citizens of Germany, Austria and other European countries are schooled in the laws that forbid resurrecting Nazi symbols and gestures, it is not clear whether the increasing numbers of Chinese visitors to Europe are conscious of the measures, most commonly used to prosecute members of the far right on the Continent.

Since China put the European Union on its list of approved tourist destinations, the volume of Chinese sightseers to Europe has surged, with many taking advantage of more direct flights to shop and see the sights and to pour millions into staggering economies.

The increase in the number of Chinese tourists and the growing efforts by countries to attract them have not been met with open arms around the globe, as many complain of a clash of cultures, language and common courtesy. In 2013, a mainland Chinese tourist in Luxor, Egypt, discovered that a fellow countryman had carved his own hieroglyphics on the wall of a 3,500-year-old temple: “Ding Jinhao was here.”

A photo of the offending scrawl drew outrage on social media, and the 15-year-old vandal was tracked down. He and his parents later issued a public apology.

For the two men who thought nothing of saluting in the style of Hitler outside the Reichstag, a judge ordered each to post €500 (S$801.73) in bail.

A police spokeswoman declined on Sunday to reveal further details, and said she did not know whether the tourists were still in Berlin, or even in Germany. NEW YORK TIMES