Parents of students at a prestigious high school in the UK expressed outrage after photos emerged this week showing pupils doing a Nazi “sieg heil” salute to an actor dressed as Adolf Hitler.
The play took place hours before the start of Yom Kippur in September, UK reports said.
The incident occurred at the Millfield School in the Somerset region of the UK. The school charges tuition of £14,610 ($17,800) per semester and is considered one of the most prestigious in the country.
The students did the salute during a play called “Adolf” about the Nazi dictator by actor Pip Utton. The one-man show features Utton dressed as Hitler, complete with a mustache, a brown uniform and a red swastika armband.
It is meant to be an educational performance about Nazi fascism and has been performed in 25 countries, according to Utton’s website.
“Looking uncomfortably like the Fuhrer, Pip takes his audience on a journey into themselves, facing their own intolerance,” the website says.
Utton said he had “manipulated” the students into doing the salute to his Hitler character and a Nazi flag, according to a Thursday report by the UK’s Jewish Chronicle.
“I told them we should thank the technicians,” he said. “I said I wanted them to perform a special show of gratitude by raising their right arms in the air, then bring their hand down to clap their knee.”
“The point was to show how people can be manipulated and how easy it is. Believe me, it is shocking for me to see it happen,” he said. “They got the fact that it was kind of a joke because they were laughing about it.”
“I was in no way attempting to glorify that horrible, horrible salute,” he told the Jewish Chronicle.
Several students complained to staff after the performance, and teachers told the pupils to delete photos from the show from their phones, the report said.
A leading private school has apologised after pupils performed Sieg Heil salutes during a play about Adolf Hitlerhttps://t.co/v6yYdVXJ0J
— Ann Mroz (@AnnMroz) December 16, 2022
A father of a Jewish student said parents were horrified and that students had not known about the play’s content ahead of time.
“It made me feel sick,” he told The Jewish Chronicle. “It would not be appropriate to give this kind of play the green light for school children at any time, least of all on the eve of Yom Kippur.”
“The school’s sole concern seemed to be a looming scandal, so it tried to destroy the evidence. I am absolutely appalled,” another parent said.
School principal Gavin Horgan said this week that the students should not have been made to “role play such actions.”
“We should not have staged this play. We are sorry for the hurt that has been caused and we have changed our approach to vetting performances so that this will never happen again,” he said.
Utton said he would have rescheduled if he had known it was the eve of Yom Kippur.
“I like to think I’m a sensitive fellow. Perhaps the school should have also been more sensitive and found another date,” he said.