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A strikingly original investigation of the origins and dissemination of the world's most infamous greeting

Sometimes the smallest detail reveals the most about a culture. In Heil Hitler: The History of a Gesture, sociologist Tilman Allert uses the Nazi transformation of the most mundane human interaction—the greeting—to show how National Socialism brought about the submission and conformity of a whole society.

Made compulsory in 1933, the Hitler salute developed into a daily reflex in a matter of mere months, and quickly became the norm in schools, at work, among friends, and even at home. Adults denounced neighbors who refused to raise their arms, and children were given tiny Hitler dolls with movable right arms so they could practice the pernicious salute. The constantly reiterated declaration of loyalty at once controlled public transactions and fractured personal relationships. And always, the greeting sacralized Hitler, investing him and his regime with a divine aura.

The first examination of a phenomenon whose significance has long been underestimated, Heil Hitler offers new insight into how the Third Reich's rituals of consent paved the way for the wholesale erosion of social morality.

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