Minnetonka school leaders condemn Nazi salute photo, call for better Holocaust understanding

Minnetonka school leaders are condemning a social media photo of two students doing the Nazi salute while holding a poster referencing Adolph Hitler.

The photo, which appeared online Thursday, showed two students giving the Nazi salute while holding a sign which said, "Sweethearts would be a Hit(ler) w/ you, and I could Nazi myself going w/ anyone else. Be Mein? Yes or Nein." 

The students deleted the post soon after administrators at Minnetonka High School learned of it. In emails sent to parents, Principal Jeff Erickson called the post a "deeply offensive message" and Superintendent Dennis Peterson stated the two students would be disciplined. Due to Minnesota laws, the exact punishment cannot be disclosed.

However beyond the intial outrage at the post, Superintendent Peterson called for improved understanding of Hitler and Holocaust.

"While we do units on this in middle school, and we have had several Holocaust survivors speak at MHS, it has apparently not been enough to prevent yesterday's incident," wrote Peterson.

Peterson states the district will "consider offers and suggestions" from multiple community groups on how to move forward.

Among those groups is the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and Dakotas. In a statement Thursday night, the group applauded the quick response by school leaders.

"We look forward to working in partnership with the Minnetonka School District to support their Jewish students and families in the face of such blatant anti-Semitism," read the statement in part.

The JCRC also pointed to a 2018 study by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany that found American adults have lack of Holocaust knowledge, especially among Millenials. According to the study, 66 percent of surveyed Millenials did not know what Auschwitz was.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is on Jan. 27.