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Pic: Soldier wearing Nazi symbol sparks Army investigation

Kentucky National Guard troops depart Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, KY (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Matt Damon)
March 28, 2024

The United States Army is investigating the 20th Special Forces Group after the National Guard unit posted a photo on its Instagram account featuring a soldier with a Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) Totenkopf skull patch.

Army Times reported that the 20th Special Forces Group, stationed in Birmingham, Alabama, posted the controversial photo Sunday on Instagram, writing, “That weekend feeling. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Don’t stop training. Don’t get complacent.”

A picture of the National Guard unit’s post, which has been deleted from the 20th Special Forces Group’s account, can be seen in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

According to Army Times, the National Guard unit’s original post was deleted after multiple social media users expressed criticism of the Totenkopf patch, which was displayed on a soldier’s helmet due, to the symbol’s use by the Nazis during World War II.

“The use of symbols and patches depicting historic images of hate is not tolerated and a clear violation of our values,” Maj. Russell Gordon, 1st Special Forces Command spokesman, said in a statement obtained by Army Times. “We are aware of the situation and are currently investigating the matter.”

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Mack Muzio, a National Guard spokesperson, announced that the Alabama National Guard is working with the 1st Special Forces Command to investigate the recent incident.

The Anti-Defamation League lists the Totenkopf on the organization’s hate symbols database. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s website, the Totenkopf “is German for ‘death’s head’ or skull and typically refers to a skull-and-crossbones image.”

During World War II, the symbol was used by the SS-Totenkopfverbande, a Nazi division that was responsible for guarding concentration camps, according to the website. The Anti-Defamation League’s website explains that the Totenkopf continues to be used “as a symbol of hate” today.

In an Instagram statement on Wednesday, the 20th Special Forces Group released a statement, saying, “The use of symbols and patches depicting historic images of hate are not tolerated within our organization.”

The 20th Special Forces Group emphasized that the National Guard unit was going to “ensure accountability” for the findings of the ongoing investigation and claimed it would “focus on enforcing accountability” in the unit’s formation.

The unit added, “We are focused on commitment to our families, teams and nation, accountability in enforcing standards, and trust that we are consistently learning.”