Wondering Out Loud

Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

What was that Sieg, heil! thing in Nazi Germany all about? And whose job was it to shout sieg?

“Sieg, heil!” was the Nazi victory cry. “Sieg” is German for “victory” and “heil” means “hail,” as in “hail to thee.” But it also means “salvation,” so “sieg heil” meant both “hail to victory” and “victory and salvation.” Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Third Reich refused to say “Heil Hitler” because to them it would have been like saying salvation came from Hitler and they believed salvation could only come from God. “Sieg and “heil” were used in call-and-response fashion at Nazi rallies. Usually the speaker cried “sieg” after his talk and the crowd “heil”-ed back. When Hitler finished speaking, one of his deputies would make the “sieg” call.

Source: Doris L. Bergen, associate professor of history