Wikimedia Commons
The famous 1936 photograph in which one man, believed to be August Landmesser, refuses to give the Nazi salute.

What happened to the man who refused to give a Nazi salute

August Landmesser, the man reported to be the subject of a viral online photo, was a member of the Nazi Party until 1935 when he decided to marry a Jewish woman.

Nearly 80 years have passed since a camera captured the moment when a man stood with his hands down among the sea of Germans giving a Nazi salute.

It was in Germany in 1936 and a newly built ship was about to leave the harbor of Hamburg. The photo shows a crowd of people, who are believed to be workers, raising their arms for the infamous gesture, except for a man believed to be August Landmesser who is standing with his arms crossed, squinting.

August Landmesser became a member of the Nazi Party in 1931, according to Fasena, an educational site on the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. He remained a member until 1935 when at 25 he decided to marry a Jewish woman named Irma Eckler.

Under Nuremberg laws instituted in September 1935, Landmesser was not allowed to marry Ms. Eckler, therefore they stayed unmarried.

Landmesser's first daughter, Ingrid, was born in October 1935, and in 1937, while Eckler was pregnant with their second daughter, Irene, Landmesser attempted to flee Germany to Denmark to find work, but was arrested and sent to jail for “Rassenschande” or “dishonoring the race.”

Eckler is believed to have been detained by the Gestapo in 1938 and sent to a concentration camp. Her last letter to her mother was sent in January 1942.

Precise numbers are still debated, but between 1933 and 1945 German troops killed some six million Jews as well as others, including Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

Landmesser was discharged from prison in 1941 and in 1944 was drafted to serve in the war. He was later declared missing in action and believed dead.

Irene Landmesser who after her parents’ arrests was separated from her sister and raised by foster parents, has documented her family history in a book titled "A family torn apart by "Rassenschande": Political persecution in the Third Reich."

In 1991 the German newspaper, Die Zeitth, published the 1936 photo of the non-saluting German, and Irene Landmesser identified the man as her father.

The photo went viral in 2011 after a blog that was launched to help with relief efforts for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami shared it on its Facebook page. Since then, the photo has been shared more than 128,000 times.

No one can tell what was going through that man's mind when he stood among the saluting crowd without raising his arm for salute, or what he did after the photo was taken. But since then, he is known on the Internet as the man who refused to give a Nazi salute.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to What happened to the man who refused to give a Nazi salute
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today