History is complex and baffling and fascinating. Reading this (an explanation that the stiff-arm salute that we now identify with the Nazis was a general gesture that was common in America before WWII) made my head spin almost as much as reading about the myth of 8 unbroken hours of sleep.
A group of about 50 children is raising and saluting the American flag. It is not the customary military salute — arm bent at a roughly 45 degree angle and hand at the forehead. Instead, the children’s arms are fully extended in an uncanny imitation of the Nazi salute.The caption reads, “Irene Kaufmann Settlement Playground Opening Flag Raising, May 1934.” At the time, the Kaufmann Settlement in the Hill District was Pittsburgh’s largest Jewish social service center. The children in the photo, presumably, are Jewish. The photo is part of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center.A boy in a sweater pulls the halyard to raise the flag while another in knickerbockers and high-rise socks holds the slack. Even the adult in the photo — it’s unclear whether she’s a teacher or counselor or fills some other supervisory role — has her arm extended in salute.