A group of high-school students in Southern California gave a Nazi salute and sang a Nazi song during an awards ceremony last year, according to video reviewed by The Daily Beast.
The video shows about 10 members of the boys’ water polo team at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California, throwing the salute once used to greet Adolf Hitler while singing a Nazi marching song played for German troops during World War II. Two more videos have emerged since this story was originally published.
The incident occurred in an unsupervised banquet room out of view of adults, the school said. The video was uploaded to Instagram by one of the athletes, who also posted lyrics to the song in his Instagram bio. After the video expired, the athlete removed the reference. He did not respond to requests for comment.
On Wednesday, more hateful videos became public. One video, reportedly filmed last year, shows members of the team making the same Nazi salute and singing a German song outdoors. In the video, one student is seen wearing a Confederate flag over his body.
The other video, reportedly filmed this year, shows two students goose-stepping, one carrying Germany’s current flag.
A spokesperson for the Garden Grove Unified School District, where Pacifica High School resides, originally The Daily Beast that the school administrators became aware of the first incident and video four months later in March, but did not say if they disciplined anyone.
A parent and student told The Daily Beast the community was not informed about the incident—which was subsequently confirmed by the school district in a statement.
“When Pacifica High School administrators first learned of this offensive video four months afterwards, the investigation included disparate accounts and lacked details that have since emerged,” the district said. “School administrators addressed the situation with the students shown in the video and their families but did not involve the larger school or district community in addressing the issue.”
On Tuesday night, dozens of teachers and families attended a school-board meeting to express anger they were not informed about the incident.
“You had an obligation to let us know about this event. You failed miserably,” said Randy Steiner, a Pacifica parent.
Pacifica High School Principal Steve Osborne apologized for not doing more.
“When administration first learned of the video in March, we did a disservice to the entire school community to limiting our action to the small group of students involved,” he said, according to KABC.
Osborne said administrators are reopening and widening their investigation in light of the new videos. Officials said students received death threats over the videos.
Rabbi Peter Levi, director of the Anti Defamation League’s Orange County chapter, criticized the school for apparently failing to address the incident with the community.
“Generally speaking, especially when something like this involves a group, we would think a more meaningful approach would be to use this as a learning opportunity, as an opportunity community-wide to state what our values are,” continued the rabbi. “This requires investigation and conversation… We’d like to see a more systematic response.”
The song the athletes were singing in the first video was written by German composer Herms Niel during the rise of Hitler, and was played to inspire Nazi troops serving in Germany’s armed forces from 1935 until 1945, when the Third Reich fell. Niel was a member of the Nazi party and conducted bands at the infamous Nuremberg rallies for Hitler’s disciples.
Peter Simi, a professor on extremism studies at Chapman University who lives nearby in Orange County, told The Daily Beast the song is so obscure it raises questions about how the athletes learned about it.
“It’s not something you’d expect somebody to accidentally know about. There’s some means by which they acquired knowledge about the song and associated Nazi issues,” he said. “Are they on websites or web forums or other social-media platforms where they’re engaging with others informed on these issues?”
This is the second recent incident involving Nazi portrayals by students in Southern California. In March, Orange County high-school students were suspended after photos of them playing beer pong with cups set up in a swastika formation went viral. Like Pacifica’s water polo team, the students in the videos were seen extending their arms in Nazi salutes.
In the aftermath of the Orange County scandal, the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum invited students who attended the party to tour its museum and meet with Holocaust survivors. The museum also plans to extend an invitation to the Pacifica students seen in last fall’s video.
“I would definitely love to reach out to the principal of [Pacifica High School] and see if we can do the same thing we did with the Newport Harbor students,” Beth Kean, the museum’s CEO, told The Daily Beast. “Once you see those artifacts, you realize what these symbols like the German nationalist song really represent. That is really the best way to learn and make sure we can move forward and prevent these types of incidents from happening.”
Editor’s Note 8/21/19: This story was updated with community reaction and a new allegation against the team.