A South African school principal has apologized for an image of three students caught making the Nazi salute.
South African outlet News24 reported that a photograph of a group of students had been posted on the Somerset West Private School’s home page, with three of them making the offensive gesture, which sparked public outrage.
Morné Coetzer, the school’s principal, initially refused to acknowledge the issue, saying the students were merely making a “Roman salute.”
In response to the scandal, the principal reversed himself, saying, “We apologize unreservedly to the public at large, and all groups and individuals that were victims of the Holocaust.”
“We also acknowledge that referring to the gesture as a ‘Roman salute’ was misjudged and we apologize for the additional offense that has caused,” he added.
He stated that he recognized “that just like other symbols of oppression, the Nazi salute has absolutely no place in society. The Holocaust was a heinous crime against humanity and we should never ever forget the pain and suffering it caused to millions of people.”
Coetzer said the school would be educating its students about the nature of the offensive gesture. Directors of the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre met with the principal to plan how to do so.
SAJBD Cape Chairman Rael Kaimowitz commented, “We do not accept that such behavior can be brushed aside by claims that it was ‘only a joke’ or no more than a display of ‘youthful high spirits.’”
”Regardless of what the intention might be, those who make Nazi salutes are in practice publicly identifying with a hateful, ultra-racist ideology that resulted in the greatest genocide of modern times,” he added.