It was meant to be the climax of a class “creativity” competition. A group of 14-year-olds and their teachers gathered in the assembly hall at a secondary school south of Nuremberg to race a collection of mouse trap cars. But then the school’s head teacher, who shall remain nameless, spoiled it all. With the toy cars poised on the starting line, she exhorted her pupils with the words: “Sieg Heil!” (“Hail victory”).
To say that Germany is still haunted by its Nazi past is no exaggeration. Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf and all Nazi memorabilia and symbols remain banned. So it is not surprising that the head teacher’s outburst has caused an almighty stir. “The use of phrases or remarks which derive from or glorify National Socialism is strictly forbidden,” the Bavarian Interior Ministry said.
The teacher has been suspended while the education authorities investigate. She apologised profusely for her blunder. “Politically I am more of a Green,” she told Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “The phrase simply slipped out and unfortunately I cannot now retract what’s already been said.” It may be that she was just trying to be ironic. In Germany, however, even 69 years on, that kind of thing is strictly “verboten”.