The parent who took a photo of Wisconsin high school boys giving what appears to be a Nazi salute on the steps of a local courthouse said Tuesday he was simply asking the teens to wave goodbye to their parents before they headed to prom and never anticipated the image would draw widespread condemnation. But Pete Gust, who has a son in the photo, said he understood why his photo of about 60 boys outside the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo last spring offended some people. About two-thirds of the boys have their right arms raised in the gesture, many grinning widely. "The optics aren't good," Gust told the AP, though he said he didn't believe the boys were doing a Nazi salute: "There was never any inkling of that whatsoever. ... There was nothing intended in any way shape or form to simulate anything that was offensive to anyone."
Gust maintained that his camera merely caught the boys' wave prematurely, saying his "regret is I didn't get to the apex." Many viewers of the photo felt strongly otherwise, with criticism pouring in from individuals and from Jewish organizations including the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. One of the students in the photo also rejected the suggestion that the gestures were anything but a Nazi salute. Jordan Blue, who is pictured without expression and with his arms down, said he believes some of the students did intend to make the salute as a joke. About a half-dozen speakers addressed the matter Monday night at a school board meeting. Kevin Vodak, the board's president, said the photo "deeply disappointed me, shamed, appalled and angered me." (This teacher accidentally mimicked the Nazi salute, then said the wrong two words.)