Quebec's federation of university students has apologized for the appearance of Nazi salutes at recent demonstrations after prominent Jewish organizations condemned protesters' use of the gesture.


Martine Desjardins, president of the federation, said the salute, which some protesters have been using to mock Montreal police for alleged brutality, doesn't "represent the values of Quebec and Canada."


"We think it was an error in judgment that they used that sign," she said.


The apology came last night, hours after B'nai Brith Canada publicly denounced the appearance of the gesture at some of Quebec's student protests.


In addition to the salute, chanting crowds have referred to local police officers as the "SS," calling them fascists and comparing them to Nazi police.


Swastikas have also appeared on anti-police pamphlets being distributed.


While the gestures are meant as an insult to police — and not as any expression of support for Nazism —Jewish organizations said that's no excuse.


B'nai Brith Canada says the action defiles the memory of those who died in the Holocaust, of those who survived, and of those who fought against the Nazis in the Second World War.


In an interview with The Canadian Press, CEO Frank Dimant said students should put a stop to using the gesture immediately.


"We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters that has outraged the Jewish community and demonstrated just how low the level of public debate has fallen on the streets of Montreal," Dimant also said, in a statement issued Tuesday.


"The actions of these protesters, whether for the purposes of deriding Montreal police or drawing attention to their cause, defile the memory of the Holocaust and remind us just how quickly anti-Semitism and the manifestations of hate can venture their way into our public discourse."


The events in question have occurred at multiple recent protests.


But B'nai Brith noted that it was issuing its statement Tuesday, on what would have been the 83rd birthday of Holocaust victim and famous diary author Anne Frank.


The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also says the decision to use that gesture — in the current context — speaks to a lack of historical understanding.


Photos of the Nazi-themed protests have been circulating on social-networking sites, causing some shock and outrage.


The photos have been posted on the Internet in recent days, sometimes without context, leaving viewers puzzled about why Montreal protesters are using the salute.


In Nazi Germany, the Schutzstaffel, or protection squadron, was a paramilitary organization intensely loyal to Adolf Hitler. It was responsible for many of the war crimes committed in the Third Reich.


quebec student protest nazi salute

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  • Protesters face police in riot gear bloc

    Protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Student protesters face police in riot g

    Student protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Student protesters face police in riot g

    Student protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police use pepper spray and fight with protesters during an arrest on St. Catharines Street near the Montreal Grand Prix festival area Sunday, June 10, 2012, in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Demonstrators hold a sign displaying concern about sexual exploitation during a march protesting the Canadian Grand Prix auto race in Montreal, Saturday, June 9, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • A protester confronts police as he and others tried to enter the Grand Prix festival area of Montreal Friday, June 8, 2012. The protesters clashed briefly with the police and there were two arrests. Participants were trying to call attention to pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain -- and they criticized the racing circuit's role in that country. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • A protester confronts police as he and others tried to enter the Grand Prix festival area of Montreal Friday, June 8, 2012. The protesters clashed briefly with the police and there were two arrests. Participants were trying to call attention to pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain -- and they criticized the racing circuit's role in that country. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Police arrest a demonstrator trying to disrupt the opening gala at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press)

  • Guests walk past riot police as they arrive the opening gala for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, which protesters tried to disrupt, in Montreal on Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • Police talk to a demonstrator as they take another, right, into custody before a cocktail party kicking off the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix festivities in Montreal, Canada, on Thursday, June 7, 2012. About 20 people were arrested and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Police officers run toward demonstrators before a cocktail party kicking off the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix festivities in Montreal, Canada, on Thursday, June 7, 2012. About 20 people were arrested and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Protesters march in the rain through the streets of Montreal to protest against bill 78 on Saturday, June 2, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Protesters march in the streets of Montreal to demonstrate against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Protesters march in the streets of Montreal to demonstrate against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • A lawyer addresses students following a march of hundreds of lawyers in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Hundreds of lawyers march in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Police keep watch as hundreds of lawyers march in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Student protesters stage a sit-in as pol

    Student protesters stage a sit-in as police in riot gear block off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)