At ADL, we monitor extremism and misinformation regularly as part of our work fighting hate. As is the case with many legacy organizations, there is a fair amount of misinformation spread about who ADL is and the reality of the work we do. To help stop the spread of this misinformation, below are responses to some of the most egregious claims.
The Aryan Circle is one of the largest white supremacist prison gangs in the United States. Its primary hand sign consists of holding up the thumb and the middle, ring, and little fingers of one hand, signifying the numbers 1 and 3 (which stand for AC). One can also hold up the little finger and the middle and index fingers, plus the thumb.
The largest white supremacist prison gang in Tennessee is Aryan Nations (a different group than the neo-Nazi group of the same name). Aryan Nations gang members use a hand sign they sometimes refer to as "bolts up" or "bolts to the sky," consisting of forming the hand into a pistol shape and pointing it upwards or outwards.
ALTERNATE NAMES: Bolts Up, Bolts to the Sky
The Nazi or Hitler salute debuted in Nazi Germany in the 1930s as a way to pay homage to Adolf Hitler. It consists of raising an outstretched right arm with the palm down. In Nazi Germany, it was often accompanied by chanting or shouting "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil." Since World War II, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists have continued to use the salute, making it the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world.
ALTERNATE NAMES: Nazi Salute
The term "peckerwood" originated as a racial epithet directed at whites. Today, it has been adopted by the white supremacist prison gang subculture, especially in southern and western states, to refer to itself. The handsign for "peckerwood" consists of forming the thumb, index finger and middle finger of one hand to form the letter "P," and the four fingers of the other hand to form the letter "W."
The Solid Wood Soldiers are a Texas-based white supremacist prison gang. Their primary tattoo consists of the initials SWS, with the two S's represented by lightning bolts. Above the initials appears the image of a bear claw, with the number 4 in the middle and sometimes the letters HCRL.
In the 2000s, white supremacists created a handsign intended to memorialize the Schutzstaffeln or SS of Nazi Germany, Hitler's secret police, political army, and concentration camp guards. The handsign utilizes both hands to make a lightning bolt symbol, as a pair of lightning bolts was the main symbol of the SS.
The Supreme White Alliance is a hardcore racist skinhead gang based primarily in the Midwest. Members sometimes use a two-handed handsign in which four fingers from one hand and three fingers from the other hand are used to represent the number 43. The gang uses 43 as a numeric symbol because the alphanumeric equivalents of the gang's initials (19 for S, 23 for W, and 1 for A), when added together, equal 43.