PUBLISHED: 14:57 EST, 27 July 2012 | UPDATED: 17:09 EST, 27 July 2012
Gerrit Oeller can’t help making the Nazi salute, being performed above by Adolf Hitler at the Nuremburg Rally in 1934, because he suffers from Tourette’s
A German teenager who can’t help making Nazi salutes because he suffers from Tourette’s syndrome was beaten unconscious by a black man who thought he was insulting him.
Gerrit Oeller, 16, was with two friends who tried to explain to the enraged man that the salute was not meant as an insult, and that he could not control his arm.
But when the Tourette’s led the teenager to grin insanely at the man as well, he went mad, hitting Gerrit so hard that he ended up unconscious.
The attack happened on an underground line in the Dulsberg district of Hamburg in northern Germany.
Gerrit said: ‘He asked me if I thought it was funny and it made me nervous, which made me clench my teeth and he thought I was grinning at him. That was when he hit me. I went out like a light.’
His friends told him that another passenger had raised the alarm with station staff who had asked what was going on, but the pair had been too scared to say anything with the furious man there, only when he went off did they call the emergency services and police.
The salute is now symbolic of far-right fascism and making a Nazi salute is illegal in Germany and punishable by up to three years of prison
By the time police arrived the man had gone but they are studying CCTV footage in the hope of tracking him down.
Gerrit, from nearby Brunsbek, was taken to hospital where he was treated for a cut over his eye and a swollen jaw.
The boy’s mother Nicola Oeller said: ‘We don’t really want to see him caught to have him punished, but we would like him to know that our son really is sick and it is a genuine condition, and maybe to apologise.
‘He can’t help himself. But there should be more awareness of the condition.’
In Germany some 5 million people suffer from a form of tic such as Gerrit has, but most are so mild that they are barely noticeable. Gerrit’s arm straightening and the clenching of his teeth is of the more extreme variety.