On Monday, Nov. 12, multiple news postings came out about a Twitter photo of a large group of boys from Baraboo High School in Baraboo, Wis. that went viral. This group of boys, about to go off to junior prom, appear to be making the Nazi salute in their posed picture. A recent graduate of Baraboo High School reported to The Independent that, “the image was taken in May and features mostly boys who were in 11th grade at the time,” meaning those posing are currently seniors. Except for a select few, all of the boys appear to be participating in using the Nazi salute for their pose, laughing with their right hands raised, enjoying the disrespectful movement they are participating in. The Cut reports that, “according to one user, the salute was done at the suggestion of the photographer, Peter Gust,” and that means he too was enjoying this cruel display. This act is not acceptable by any means. It makes reference to a horrible and devastating time in history when people were slaughtered simply because they were Jewish and did not fit into Hitler’s vision of society.
Based on further research, and despite the pose being the photographer’s suggestion, it is not shocking that these students would agree to pose in this manner. Many Baraboo alumni have spoken out about this photo and have given examples of other ways that students of Baraboo High School in general have shown discourtesy towards people different from them or who have experienced injustice. Some alumni, as reported by The Cut, “spoke of students yelling ‘white power’ in the hallways after Trump was elected, and others who were frequently being called racial or transphobic slurs by white students,” and even said that the school failed to act on these issues, even when they were reported. From these firsthand accounts of the actions of students at Baraboo High School, it is easy to see that this pose was intentional. A sharing of the photo, which surfaced on Twitter by an account named “Welcome to Baraboo,” had a caption that read “We even got the black kid to throw it up” as reported by The Independent.
I highly doubt that “throwing it up” is in reference to an innocent hand motion with an eerie resemblance to the Nazi salute that is only known to the class of 2019 male Baraboo students. Unfortunately for them, this joke has some serious consequences. Lori Mueller, a school district superintendent of Baraboo who spoke to The Independent, said that the image was being investigated and they “will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.” The surfacing of this picture does not shed a good light on Baraboo High School, but the school district has fought back saying that “the photo did not reflect the educational values and beliefs of the school district,” as reported by The Cut.
This may just be a group of immature high school boys getting excited for their junior prom, but that is not an excuse for the extreme lack of respect that they showed by posing in this manner. This action is not just a rude display of the devastation of the Holocaust, but is also degrading for the school, the town and even the students themselves. Posing in this way is a terrible thing, and hopefully these students, and others, learn from this experience and gain a better understanding of how to act more well-mannered in society.