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‘Hail Trump!’: Nazi Salutes, Antisemitism at Alt-Right National Policy Institute Conference

Audience members give the Nazi salute during a speech by National Policy Institute director Richard Spencer at the group's annual conference in Washington, DC (Photo: The Atlantic screen grab)

Audience members give the Nazi salute during a speech by National Policy Institute director Richard Spencer at the group’s annual conference in Washington, DC (Photo: The Atlantic screen grab)

A video leaked from the annual conference of a leading white nationalist organization shows alt-right leader Richard B. Spencer delivering a shockingly Hitleresque speech, replete with Nazi propaganda spoken in German, as audience members raised their arms in the Nazi salute as they celebrated Donald Trump’s victory.

“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory,” exclaims Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute, a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)- designated hate group, in the video.

“To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conquerer,” asserts Spencer. “We build, we produce, we go upward, and we recognize the central lie of American race relations —  We don’t exploit other groups. We don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around.”

The audience applauded vigorously in approval, with some members giving Nazi salutes.

“For us, it is conquer or die,” said Spencer. “America was until this past generation a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation. It is our inheritance. And it belongs to us!”

NPI describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” Spencer, who popularized the term alt-right to describe the movement to preserve white identity and end multiculturalism, has said his dream is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” He has also called for the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of non-whites.

This year’s NPI conference was ecstatic over the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. Trump’s racist and bigoted statements resonate strongly with white nationalists — he has called Mexicans criminals and “rapists,” called for a total ban on Muslim immigration and travel to the US and has questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States, among many other controversial statements.

Trump has also failed to disavow endorsements by leading racist figures including former KKK leader David Duke. Instead, he has appointed leading alt-right figure and Breitbart.com chief Steve Bannon, who has been accused of racism, anti-Semitism and transphobia — and who, like Trump, has been praised or endorsed by racist and white nationalist groups including the Ku Klux Klan — as his chief White House strategist. He has also angered and alarmed civil rights advocates — and thrilled racists — by naming Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was once deemed too racist to serve as a federal judge, as America’s next attorney general, and Mike Flynn, a former general known for his extreme anti-Muslim views, as his national security adviser.

Responding to the video leaked from the NPI conference, Trump’s transition team issued a statement claiming the president-elect condemns racism. “Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he [was] elected because he will be a leader for every American,” Bryan Lanza, a spokesman for the Trump-Pence Transition team, said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

However, Trump faced growing criticism for his failure to personally condemn white nationalism and hateful comments including those made by Spencer over the weekend. Critics also argue that tapping figures like Sessions, Bannon and Flynn for top administration posts demonstrates that Trump is not serious about opposing racism and bigotry.

The US Holocaust Museum said it was “alarmed” by the “hateful” speech at the NPI conference. “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” the museum said in a statement. It continued:

Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute — a white nationalist think tank — that sponsored the conference, made several direct and indirect references to Jews and other minorities, often alluding to Nazism. He spoke in German to quote Nazi propaganda and refer to the mainstream media. He implied that the media was protecting Jewish interests and said, ‘One wonders if these people are people at all?’ He said that America belongs to white people. His statement that white people face a choice of ‘conquer or die’ closely echoes Adolf Hitler’s view of Jews and that history is a racial struggle for survival.

“The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech,” the statement said.

Leading civil rights groups called on Trump to denounce the alt-right’s racism. “We would like him to stand up and denounce these folks,” Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate crimes for SPLC, told the New York Times. “It’s inexplicable. The longer it goes on, the more you have to wonder if it’s not intentional.”

Spencer reportedly countered that the Nazi salutes at the conference were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”

Since Trump’s election, advocacy groups including SPLC have counted more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment or attacks across the country, ranging from shouting of slurs and graffiti to physical attacks. Many of the perpetrators of these incidents have invoked Trump’s name or impending presidency while in the act.

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