War and Peace 2012

“Eine Herr Vippy, danke”

I have to confess to feeling distinctly out of my comfort zone at War and Peace 2012.  If you don’t know it, the annual event is billed as the largest gathering of its kind in the world for people whose hobby is 20th Century warfare.  It happens every year at The Hop Farm just outside Paddock Wood.

I should explain ‘hobby’ here a little.  I’m not talking about people who have a few books about Stalingrad or ‘The Fall of the Third Reich’ on their shelves.  I’m talking about people who dress up as GIs and Stormtroopers, who get a kick out of digging a trench and sleeping in it for three days, who have a Soviet T34 tank parked on their lawn.

Growing up I loved military history.  These days I can’t separate the battles from the events that lead to them and the consequences that followed.  If I was to pick a period that really interests me it would be the ‘Long Enlightenment’ from 1629-1832 because it traces the rise of Liberty in the English speaking world from the moment Charles I dissolved his second Parliament to the passage of the Great Reform Bill that set Britain on a course that resulted, almost a century later, in universal suffrage.

So while as a ten year old I buried myself in Peter Young’s Military History of the English Civil Wars, these days I’m far more interested in its causes and ramifications.  I’m intrigued by the notion that the same conflict was fought out again and again first in England, Scotland and Ireland and then again in the Thirteen Colonies and later still between the Union and the Confederacy.  It was, the thesis goes, all about the right of people to choose by whom they were governed – by King or Parliament, from London or Philadelphia, by the Federal authorities or by their states.  It was the cause of Liberty.

That said I’m not immune to the romance of the English Civil War (or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as they’re now called) and the American Revolution.  I know that some people find The Sealed Knot a bit odd, but I wouldn’t hesitate to share an ale with them (so long as they were for Parliament of course).  Lots of people like to dress up now and again and some use it as a gateway into a much deeper involvement with a period.

However War and Peace freaked me out somewhat.  Why exactly?  I think it’s a combination of reasons.

Enthusiast dressed as undercover policeman

Firstly I struggle to find the romance in twentieth century warfare.  It resulted in the deaths of civilians on a scale never seen before.  Wars have always been cruel to bystanders but never was the deliberate targeting of non combatants so central to military strategy as it has been over the last hundred years.

It’s also the industrialised nature of modern war.  Whereas once you faced your enemy, technology has put an ever greater distance between killer and victim.  As the physical distance grows so does the moral distance from the act.  Soldiers become more detached and less aware of the consequences of what they do.

Then, conversely, there’s the lack of distance in terms of time passed.  My parents lived through the Blitz.  My grandfather served in the RFC.  I’ve met more veterans than I can recall.  Many of my teachers served in North Africa or Italy or Europe.  The people affected by the 1939-45 conflict still live among them; veterans and civilians both.

And lastly there’s the whole issue of dressing up in Nazi uniforms and flying swastikas.

I was so bothered by that I had to ask one of the guys with the Second Battle Group re-enactment club whether he didn’t feel uncomfortable dressing up as a member of the First SS Division.

He politely stressed that they were really in it for the tanks and other vehicles they restored and that they weren’t political in any way.

I put it to him that it couldn’t avoid being political.  We’re not talking about any old regiment here, we’re talking about ideological Nazis who formed a division that grew out of Hitler’s personal bodyguard.

He countered that there were 22 or 23 SS Divisions and that not all of them were bad.   Indeed, he explained, the Russians were worse. The trouble is that the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was bad.  It carried out massacres of Jews.  It murdered 80 British POWs during the invasion of France and up to 5000 other prisoners of war, mostly on the Eastern Front and the division was collectively found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg.

Putting aside the findings of undercover reporters who discovered a few years back that the group had been infiltrated by neo Nazis (Second Battle Group put out a statement to unequivocally distance themselves from racist views), it still strikes me as in dubious taste.

To dress up as the Waffen SS is to celebrate their memory and you can’t really pick and choose which bits you celebrate.  I’m sure there was martial prowess, bravery, comradeship, discipline and all those things.  However you can’t separate those from the war crimes the units they dress up as committed.  Do you see Brits recreating the Amritsar massacre?  No.  How about an Abu Ghraib re-enactment society?  You can imagine the small-ad: “Afghan-looking members wanted to help re-stage systemic humiliation and torture for public entertainment at shows and conventions.”  Hey, put it out there on Craig’s List and see where you get.

I think I’d feel more comfortable if the Second Battle Group guys were a bit more honest and admitted they’re re-enacting the bad guys and staged massacres of POWs.  Then we might get away from the ‘fun, crazy SS guys’ routine.  This isn’t the mockery of ‘Allo ‘Allo, a means of exorcising our fears and anger through ridicule.  There’s no satire in the Second Battle Group’s re-enactment.  They’re in deadly earnest.  So if they’re in earnest it needs less whitewash and more warts and all.  If they value historicity then accuracy demands it.

But my feelings of discomfort at War and Peace went further than that.  It was a Mecca for entire families who are deeply into the whole tanks and fatigues thing.  Little boys and girls dressed up in uniforms.  Mum, dad and the kids riding around in an armoured personnel carrier.  It’s almost like a Tea Party manifesto – ‘Cut crime – arm every family to the teeth. Vote for ‘one home, one tank’.’

There was very little of the misery of war on show at War and Peace.  The fact that there are so many impressionable young people there demands a rounder account of what they’re seeing.

I don’t normally wander off into politics on Land of Oak and Iron.  I just wanted to write about a local event I took Luca to.  We had a nice time in the model tent.  I went to the show mainly to help out the very nice chaps from the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society who were running a ‘Flames of War’ game.  It’s tabletop wargaming rather than dressing up and yet still I feel slightly odd about playing such a recent and brutal conflict.

For what it’s worth I helped command the French in a 1940 defence of France scenario and we won.

So would I go again?  Quite possibly, yes.  I try to keep an open mind about the people who get involved in the bits that make me feel uncomfortable and I enjoy the bits that don’t.  And for some reason the sight of a cheery looking chap in British North Africa kit standing outside a very smart bivouac made me smile.  Actually it made me feel positively warm.  Perhaps it’s the fact that he was playing someone doing his bit in the fight against tyranny.  It’s the ‘reasons behind the conflict’ thing again.  Uniforms come and go.  The cause of liberty is eternal.
Update

Just for clarity some re-enactors want me to explain that they have issues with people dressing up as the Allgemeine SS (presumably as opposed to the Waffen SS) and see this as being in poor taste.

I’m guessing from their descriptions that the chaps on the left may be Allgemeine SS on which case they still seem to be attracting their share of fanboys (and fan-grown-ups-who-should-perhaps-know-better).

The Second Battle Group people don’t re-enact Allgemeine SS, they re-enact these guys.  Make up your own mind.

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51 Responses to War and Peace 2012

  1. Paulus says:

    Come and spend a weekend with KSK rough it with us I challenge you. Forget SBG and all this English Civil War frilly shirt stuff, doffing hats etc. Just for info the Allies comitted war crimes too.

    • Yes the allies did – and it’s why it’s taken 70 odd years for people to accept a memorial to bomber command (though I’d rather it had taken 70 years for a memorial to Harris than to the poor devils who got sent up there to suffer such horrific losses). And you never know – I might take you up on that!

      • We are a very friendly bunch Jonathan, you’ll enjoy it. Incidentally, part of my thinking when I first joined, along with various other thoughts mentioned previously, was that I wanted to try and understand the motivations and feelings of the original German troops in the field, in essence I was curious to know how I would react myself to wearing the uniform and kit (I am a Psychology and English graduate). My general feeling is that although the Waffen SS did commit some horrible atrocities, at least some of that was probably due to the day-in, day-out, experience of seeing their friends and comrades killed in battle, particularly by the resistance before D-Day. Max Hastings explores that issue in his book ‘Das Reich’ (about the 2nd SS Panzer Division which was responsible for Oradour-sur-Glaine) but he also, in other books, stresses most strongly that the allies were not immune from such pressure too, in fact there were regular shootings in cold blood of German prisoners by American, and probably British troops, but that’s not generally talked about. As one American officer put it in response to such a complaint after the war by a German veteran ‘you forget something, we won the war, you lost it’.

  2. I think you miss the point completely, I am a member of KSK who also portray the 1st SS Leibstandarte, alongside the genuine interest in WW2 that we have, and a particular interest in German tanks and kit, portraying the German side is also useful in that it triggers a reaction, as you’ve just displayed with this piece. Triggering reactions also make people think and therefore remember, in essence in the very act of you expressing a reaction, you are also remembering, and I personally would rather that happened than the opposite process – people forgetting. As someone wise once said, a society that forgets its own history is doomed to repeat it. So you can pour scorn on us German reenactors if you like, it bothers me not. When people look at us, they also think and remember, and they then also start to think about the veterans without whom this society would have been very different, and a lot less pleasant. And that’s why many British and American veterans actually thank us for doing what we do. Yes, war is horrible, and those of us who portray the SS are very aware of the history thankyou very much. We are also non-political, certainly not neo-fascists, in fact I believe ironically that in some way we help to keep the danger of resurgent fascism in the public awareness. So, understandable comments, but sadly misguided. I think perhaps you should think a little more deeply about the reasons why we do this, and perhaps try to talk to us a little more before forming judgement. Oh by the way, my politics are left of centre, and most certainly anti-fascist, just so you are aware!

    • Point taken – though I’m not sure I did miss it – that it is better to remember than to forget. No question about that. However I’m not pouring scorn on the re-enactors. I had a perfectly lucid conversation with one of the Second Battle Group guys and I wrote this in response.
      He made the point that you do, about liking the kit and the period of history, however he also tried to play down the record of the SS. I think that’s the wrong response. A better one would be to say that if you’re going to re-enact the period you need both sides. That’s a very fair point.
      There’s no getting away from the fact however that in certain parts of Europe you couldn’t wear German 1933-45 uniforms and the reason for that is that the crimes of the Third Reich are too horrific and too recent and the concerns about a revival of fascism in Europe too great for people to be prepared to tolerate it. Bearing that in mind I think people who re-enact SS units might be more robust in their position when they talk about what they do. You are very clear about it and it’s a position I respect, but the guy I spoke to and a couple of those I overheard prompted this piece and it was a fair response to what I encountered. Andin that spirit of fairness when I found references to the Second Battle Group having been infiltrated by neo-Fascists I made a point of mentioning that they’d made it clear they had no truck with such people.

      • Yes, that’s probably true, but those of us who really read the history, know full well what the SS did, but you have to set it in context and remember the allies also committed atrocities, but of course not quite on the level of the SS. Even before D-Day, the occupying German troops were being attacked all the time by the various resistance forces, and so the stresses on them were probably much greater, aside from the obvious question of ideology. I think you would actually be surprised by what is going on in Europe these days. Certainly in France you can’t reenact German troops from what I hear, and that’s also pretty much true in Germany itself, probably due to national guilt and fear of resurgent nationalism, but in some of the former occupied countries in Eastern Europe, they love it, particularly in Poland and Russia from what I hear. And you must know just how much the Russians suffered from both the SS and the Wehrmacht.

  3. kaben says:

    Your views are very rose tinted here. The period of history which you seem to view through some kind of rose tint held many terrible characters, regimes and ideals. Cromwell, one of your “heroes of liberty” in that period was a mass murderer plain and simple. I would not so gleefully align myself with parliament when you consider that he systematically massacred Irish Catholics,He forced the deportation of thousands more to the americas, laid waste to crops and stole land from catholic land owners, causing the starvation of thousands and the conditions lead to the onset of bubonic plague. .

    I have no love for catholics, I am an atheist, Cromwell was just a nasty piece of work. But his ideals won and so as the victor the history books put him in the best light.

    By your reasoning, shouldnt everyone who re-enacts as a roundhead then also be ashamed of this attrocities in the same way you seem to think more modern reenactors should?

    I dont think so.

    • I’m not remotely rose tinted about the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. I know my history. A greater proportion of the population of Ireland died during the period than did during the famines of the 1840s – some put it as high as 40%. For that reason I’d think that to march as a NMA re-enactor through the streets of Drogheda would be unacceptably provocative, even with the greater distance that 350 years gives. I could recommend Robert Kee’s The Green Flag as a good primer on Irish history.
      So if I find a degree of romance amidst the carnage of the first civil war I certainly don’t find any Cromwell’s Irish campaign. Indeed there’s precious little romance about the Cromwellian period full stop. However the 1942-45 war was very much about principles and ideas and the two opposing views still resonate in modern British (and particularly English I suspect) society.

    • I remember visiting Warwick Castle once when I was a kid. That castle has a particularly nasty and squalid looking dungeon, which was actually used during the English Civil War for holding Royalist prisoners. It has a French style oubliette in the floor, a coffin-sized cage in which a man was forced to lie. And the floor itself slopes down towards it. You can imagine what would happen in time as the other prisoners repeatedly defecated. I can’t imagine the Sealed Knot society reenacting scenes like that

  4. Tony says:

    Axis reenactors are not immune from feeling moved about the atrocities of war. Most of the axis forces you see displayed take part in the battles against the allied forces. Without us there would be no battle! We are just people, same as everyone else, the political extremists are soon routed out, we do not tolerate them in our group. History is history, we like 20th century, just because you don’t find it romantic should be no reason to dismiss it as wrong.
    I think we all need to embrace every aspect and keep an open mind, tolerance is the order of the day at W&P.!

    • I did say at the end of the piece that I wold keep an open mind about everyone there and about those things that made me uncomfortable. And yes – one does need both sides in a re-enactment. Moreover I’m not dismissing it out of hand as wrong – merely pointing out that those who try to sweep the bad bits under the carpet are doing a disservice to those who don’t.
      There are far too many people, many of them young and many in Eastern Europe, who mindlessly glorify the Nazis for those who are seriously interested in the history to avoid the fact that its politically loaded. However bad the Soviets were I’m not aware of crowds of young communists glorifying the atrocities of the Red Army, wearing hammer and sickle logos and persecuting minorities. Sadly across East Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia there are significant numbers of Neo Nazis who cling to the ideas and the imagery of the Third Reich. In Greece we’ve seen the emergence of a Neo Fascist party that apeas Nazi imagery, that attacks immigrants and one of whose senior representatives even hit a female political opponent on live TV.
      I know the vast majority of re-enactors would be as revolted by most of this as the rest of us. But because we don’t live in a bubble it’s important to be unequivocal about the history. “Some SS units weren’t such bad guys” or “The Russians were worse” doesn’t cut it. “Those of us who are really interested in the history know just how bad it was – and this is how it was….” would be a far better response. If you want to make the history live, then make it live. Then you’d be doing all of us an enormous service. But just so you know I am keeping an open mind – just as I wrote.
      meanwhile – a couple of people have written rude notes. Fine with me. However this is the editorial policy here: engage in reasoned, intelligent debate (as Tony and the others whose comments I’ve posted have) and I’ll post your comments however much I disagree with them. Indulge in abuse and I won’t niot least because it makes me smile to imaging you hammering awage furiously at your keyboard only for your hard written invective to disappear into the trash….

      • Of course it’s politically loaded, but there again to my mind that’s even more reason to reenact – to remind people where the resurgent neo-Nazism that’s becoming prevalent in our society can lead. Virtually all the reenactors I’ve met during my three years or so in reenactment understand this. Yes there will be those who try to sweep the bad bits under the carpet, but I think you’ll find they are generally few in number. As I’ve mentioned previously, the uniform tends to spark debate and talking about it is good for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. As Tony says, political extremists are given short order and booted out where they are found. The more we talk about this stuff as a society the more we will guard against it, and that can only be for the good, especially in the dire recessionary times we are experiencing now…

  5. Sharfuhrer Koll says:

    Johnathan Kent enjoys the freedom of the press – free speech…. I enjoy the freedom of re-enacting SS …….. don’t you just love this country!

    • …and with those cherished freedoms come responsibilities and high amongst them is a responsibility to the truth

      • Yes, but because those truths are sometimes unpalatable, that makes it somewhat difficult to reenact massacres, throwing bodies into a pit or beating up Jews, so that means we have to talk about it instead, which is what most German reenactors actually try to do in my experience…

  6. Disholt says:

    It’s an interesting debate one I have not the time to delve into fully as I am now not in Beltring and back in the real world and much prefer face to face discussions where you can judge and be judged on facial expression, body language and conversation as a whole than as a font, however firstly and just to set one things straight the initial point is a correction to comments above. I will then in true style only I believe I can manage I will add a little of my own insight from the hobby;
    Germany now has two very good reenactment groups that one that portrays heer infantry and one that does SS. They have very strict rules about how they go about it and understandably hoops that they have had to jump through included agreement from two high court judges that state they are doing nothing illegal. This has allowed them to attend legally events in Germany in uniform with full insignia. So to say SS and German reenactment is not allowed there is misguided.
    My thoughts on the neo nazi issues and of course they do try to filter there way into groups that portray axis forces is that in my several years reenacting I have come across more bigoted racist nonsense when I the company of those portraying allied forces in the beer tent than is enough, they feel immune and safe because they wear British or american uniform, to me this is a greater concern in the hobby as I have rarely seen their peers mute them and sometimes am left agast by comments I have to hear. The main difference on this issue aside of what uniform one wears is that in GB we can openly discuss such issues of what occurred during WWII and analyse it as we are here without repurcussions, in mainland Europe people shy away from such talks, it is not open and as such reenactment of axis forces and the history is not put out on a table for people to discuss. This lack of discussion to me is the brushing under the carpet that other countries are scared to deal with. By not dealing and coming to terms and moving on from history and realising as a nation their guilt in Germany or for being occupied (france, poland etc) is a generation nearly past they do not know how to handle the youth who do not understand the full gravitas and context of what happened. That is glorification not reenactment. The countries need to grab the historical bull by the horns and teach their young generations without guilt, allow them to question and predominately explain why neo nazism is wrong, where it tenuously latches onto issues often not just German historical ideology but that of other narrow minded 1930’s warped ism’s. We don’t have such a big issues as they do because of this, having a historical interest in 1930-1940s Germany here makes you a history buff, in other countries it makes you a neo nazi, however if your just interested as many reenactors are then where is the link ? Unless you live those ideals you are not a neo nazi and should not be treated as such until tendencies are shown at which point then is the time to deal with it. In this country people who reenact soviet are not deemed communist, British reenactors are not deemed Conservative so why are German reenactors presumed to be Neo nazis? Nazism historically died out as a political group no longer exists, neo nazism is a movement by my understanding but then tbh I don’t follow those trails of thoughts or leanings.
    For the record I reenact as a female predominately axis portrayals but also have done American and British. I am if anything probably to people that know me a wishy washy liberal with green tendencies. I find from my persepective the issues of German women interesting, a topic not covered generally in history education or in books past camp guards at kz, allied forces and those under occupation. I research these and portray these to show a different aspect, I understand the spell many of these women were under and have discussed the reason why they were with women that were there. I as am sure the women in the group I reenact are happy to discuss this with people.
    Of the memories that stand out most for war and peace for me is sitting at a table with two British veterans and two German veterans and watching their interaction and understanding of each other, two fought at other ends of a field in France. If they can deal and move on having seen the horrors and known the repurcussions of their own and their nations actions why on earth can we not learn from it?

    • That’s interesting, I didn’t know about those two groups in Germany, maybe the country is starting to move in the right way then, as for the other comments made by Disholt, I entirely agree. Trying to sweep all this under the carpet will not work, you have to bring these issues out into the open and discuss it and debate it, otherwise the dark side reemerges.

  7. I recieved the following comment from ‘Ian’. I’m posting it rather than approving his comment as I put his first comment into the trash and don’t wish to allow him to post here unmoderated – you’re free to disagree with me Ian but if you’re going to be rude – as your first comment was – don’t expect me to humour you by giving you a platform. This has been a very civil discussion even though most of those who have posted have taken me to task in some way. And civil is the way I intend to keep it – here is Ian’s latest:

    “Just wondering why my earlier post has not made it on to here after all the comments made above echo those I had written?

    Everyone finds something distasteful from the pages of history and either turn away from it and forever remain ignorant to it or turn and face it and learn something new.

    I am a member of the Second Battle Group, I have no problem in stating this I am a historian that has found the Waffen-SS a very interesting subject in how they were formed, how they fought and how they were branded a but not as criminal organisation after the war. I have re-enacted American GI’s before and must admit that was interesting in its own way … but didn’t really grasp my interest. As they say “horses for courses …”

    What has annoyed me about this article, and everyone has their opinion which is great, but of all the photo’s you have posted not one is of a SBG member. And the SBG would never allow it’s members to walk around wearing Allgemeine SS uniforms which have ‘political’ connertations …

    As for not talking about the ‘politics’ or ‘war crimes’ issues, perhaps it is worth considering that W-SS re-enactors prefer to keep quiet about this rather than get drawn in to a discussion which could be recorded or filmed and then pieced together by some journalist desperate to make a name for themselves? After all, what people say and what is actually printed or shown on camera are two different things ….”

    • Ian – you’re annoyed that I used photos of re-enactors other that the SBG. Well I simply used the photos that I liked most. It doesn’t add to or detract from my reporting of the conversation I had with someone from the SBG. I know he was a member of his group because he told me he was and he was in the SBG area.

      Now had he said ‘I’d rather not discuss that because I’m concerned about being misrepresented’ I might take your point (though if you’re filmed saying something then the chances are that you did say it Ian because as someone who has filmed and edited for TV it’s damned difficult to make someone say somethng they didn’t – because unlike an audio edit you san see every splice…). However he didn’t prefer to keep quiet, rather he took the line of ‘The Russians were worse’ and ‘some SS units were worse than others’. I thought that approach is less creditable than that espoused by a number of posters here who are arguing ‘better we re-enact than we forget’, that ‘re-enactments need both sides’ and ‘that re-enacting doesn’t need to show massacres for us to be frank about the ugliest aspects of the Second World War’.

      This is one of those situations where I have been to some extent, but not unequivocally, persuaded by the arguments.

      I’m interested by Disholt’s comment that she encounters more offensive views from those dressed in allied uniforms. I could speculate why that might be – albeit that would only be speculation – but perhaps re-enactors playing Axis forces become more mindful of the additional resonance their uniforms would give unpleasant remarks.

      I also appreciate the clarification on the situation in Germany – however though it stops short of a ban clearly there’s a vastly greater sensitivity to Nazi imagery. I’m not sure that France has a ban however I would imagine that there would also be a pretty robusly hostile reaction from a lot of French people.

      I also found your observation about the reluctance of certain countries to look history full in the face. It probably is true of both Germany and France but also of a number of countries occupied in the 1939-45 period where there was collaboration. Then again the field of allied war crimes seems (and I don’t say this with any great authority but more from the sense I get as someone who is conscious of the popular presentation of history) under-explored. It might do us all a service if the subject were better illuminated as we’d be less prone to thinking our forces couldn’t do bad things and thus we might have had a better chence of forestalling some of the less proud moments from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      • Interesting that Ian should appear irritated that Jonathan’s photos did not contain any SBG members, although I think we get on reasonably well with the SBG (and long may that continue) I would point out that there are other groups portraying the 1st SS Liebstandarte, particularly Kampfgruppe Stahlkrieger (KSK) to which I belong. This is not really the place to argue over who’s group appears in which photos, so let’s get back to the point. I also take issue with Ian’s final point, that “W-SS re-enactors prefer to keep quiet about this ” – actually that is probably the WORST thing to do, and I have tried, I think successfully to point this out in my own group, KSK, because if you don’t speak your truth, someone else will make it up for you. What needed to happen after the John Sweeny episode was for more reenactors to come out and rebel against its deluded conclusions rather than for us all to remain quiet. A classic example of this can be seen elsewhere, in the reaction of those holding Pagan spiritual beliefs to criticism from Christians and general members of the public not willing to peer deeper into Pagan beliefs, for many years Pagans chose to remain quiet and as a result actually encouraged all the tiresome stereotypical images of Pagans as dangerous weirdos rather as perfectly ordinary people with reasonable spiritual beliefs. Likewise remaining will do reenactors no good either.

  8. Disholt says:

    Interesting point on the latter, who knows as individuals the old adage is true ‘you can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time’. Scale that up to many people all with conflicting ideas well it’s hopeless and in politics he who shouts loudest wll we all know how that turns out.
    I would agree those in axis uniforms are more inclined to be guarded and islet Ian’s post is done via yourself he does draw a valid point in as much as jounalists thrive on getting the story they want rather than the story as it is. This is true in all walks of media, inparticular when they deal with axis reenactors, the truth may out, but unfortunately if damage is done, it too late for the individual misrepresented. A simple similarity could be a journalistic tv report that stated wrt war and peace 2012 ‘look the nazi eating ice cream’. To the individual that is the reenactor, that can cause damage in a work place even their hobby is well known and been given the ok as it can look bad for a company, as said its too late to back pedal. This is the rationale many use for not talking to the media, most groups of reenactors in general regardless of nation portrayed have a spokesperson for such reasons, it can make them seem ‘standoffish’ (is that such a word) but the reality is, it’s a necessary evil even in civil war reenactment.
    On the France front I can’t say I know of any events that take part with groups attending, mainly as those I know choose to do it in the uk where it is more accepted. To the same vein I know Germans that appose the thought of axis reenactment are abhorrent to the idea of Russian reenactment, I guess it’s all about perspective and to that train of thought not loosing your perspective.
    The Iraq and more recently Afghanistan conflicts are an interesting junction here, they’re were reenactors there portraying the men in duty over there now, mv owners have the vehicles, and yet to some this is too close a history to repeat. To years ago there was a group of young adults (I say this being over 30 that they could be any point under my years) that rode around and dressed as the Taliban, distasteful? To some reenactors, including axis ones, yes. Some had served there and it left a taste in their mouth, does that mean that people can’t do this? In years to come will we as a nation who grew up with this conflict say its distasteful for people to reenact such? Be an interesting one to see though no doubt not in my war and peace lifetime.
    I covered the period 1930-1940s all encompassing of 1939-45, the wheels in motion started before the latter and in respect to German history the seeds were planted after the fail during WWI and the wiemar years.

    • Personally I don’t buy the whole ‘journalists getting the story they want’ line. I’ve been a journalist 25 years and I’ve always told it as I saw it based on what I found. Yes, some on the tabloids are unscrupulous but by and large there’s enormous professional pride from serious journalists in accuracy and balance. Journalism gets portrayed in a particular way in drama. It’s the same with cop shows – it’s very rrarely an accurate portrayal – after all it needs to be dramatic to be drama.
      Moreover the SBG guy I spoke to wasn’t standoffish. He didn’t not want to talk. I asked him a few very straighforward questions about whether he was uncomfortable wearing and SS uniform and I reported what he said. I thought he tried to play down the difficult issues. I think that’s the wrong approach. They can’t be avoided. They have to be tackled head on. Almost seventy years after the end of the war Nazi symbols are still highly potent and politically loaded. And frankly if being photographed as an Axis re-enactor can hurt your career then that should tell you something about how prickly much of the rest of the non-reenactor world is about people dressing up in those uniforms.
      I’m quite prepared to accept that re-enactors can be on the side of the angels however if they don’t take a pro-active role in dealing frankly with those things that give other people qualms then I don’t think it’s all that surprising that some people question their motives and outlook.

      • To be honest I agree with you there to some extent, as a journalist myself (albeit a freelance journalist), I feel also that most journalists take pride in getting things right, but there are undoubtedly a few bad eggs, and John Sweeney was one of them in my opinion. Complete misrepresentation (this was a year before I was on the scene unfortunately as I would definitely have had some words to say to the man) and I remain dismayed about the apparent willingness of the BBC to descend into sensationalism as if it was an on-screen version of the Daily Mail, just to improve ratings. In such circumstances, you can’t really blame reenactors for wanting to remain quiet, even if, in actuality doing so is precisely the wrong thing to do. So yes, if reenactors try to play down the difficult issues, that is absolutely the wrong approach. We should be prepared and ready to talk about it, in fact I think we almost have a responsibility to do so, precisely because it is still politically loaded. If we are not prepared to come out and say why we do this, others will make assumptions, and invariably those assumptions will be incorrect.

      • Disholt says:

        I missed Sweeneygate due to ill health however he isn’t the first and am sure won’t be the last, he was merely the most extreme. I know allied reenactors who do forces and home front that think twice before interviews now from bad experiences with the press and tv usually wrt to home front as being unhinged. I personally know a few journalists, one local press (terrible at getting things all the information but if its not in his remit to cover an issue it’s not asked wrong or not he does what hes paid, we’ve crossed swords on this several times on all a manner of subject never reenactment as hes never covered it), a friend for a regional glossy magazine, I have witnessed her getting a ticking off at a function after the story about a store was published ignored the actual goods and talked about how the staff were (again remit is people in general want to know about the service from powers that be) and one that freelances (scientific stuff very reductionist but paid to be). I admire your valour if you can as they say ‘keep it real’ but from those friends I have I know they struggle with constraints in different ways for the printed format to always be 100% accurate to accounts and interviews. Biased I am on this and sadly I won’t change I appreciate as a grown up (debateable am sure) not all are unscrupulous to the extreme but misrepresenting comes in many forms. I feel we have been side tracked into a less interesting debate than the one in hand.

        I cannot speak for the reenactor you spoke to, I may not even know him so will say nothing further on this as its not only fruitless its foolish on my part if I allow myself to do so.

        Back to the educational side as I feel this is the real talking point. How do we keep issues current so they are not forgotten? (reenactor or not). What can we do to ensure the information is given is not only correct but appropriate to the audience ? Some may eel a journalist wrongly or rightly is offering leading questions as apposed to a child asking the response should be gauged to the audience as the reenactor sees appropriate unfortunately it’s a hobby we not are paid. If a reenactor had someone who approached them on our display and proceeded to ask me if I knew about the role of some German women within the third reich it would be foolish to say no, however if one of our group were to be a new member for example and they were asked and unsure I would at least like to think they would appologise and get a member that can enter into an educated discussion, we sadly do not all enter into the hobby as walking text books, if we waited until we were there would be no reenactment at all of any era as you never stop learning.

  9. Here’s another comment from Ian – sorry for the delay in posting

    “I think somehow the thread of what I was trying to say has been twisted, possibly and more than likely by my bad descriptions etc. The photo issue is to me a non entity, I am more than happy that the people shown are not SBG members and i know the lads (and often ladies) from the other W-SS re-enactment societies quite well, including KSK, Das Reich, Kompanie 1 etc and are glad they have featured to some extent or other.

    However what irkes me a little is that the SBG are mentioned so frequently in a column / blog with what appears to be a gentleman dressed in a SS-Allgemeine uniform, wondering around a public show quite openly. Now i’m not stating that the gentleman in question has any political agenda or leanings towards the right in any way, but the black uniform of the SS is a very political uniform and is as synonymous with terror and oppression as the Swastika flag. Therefore to see a report frequently stating the SBG’s name and see this photo there must be an assumption made that he is a member of the group and therefore, wearing what he is wearing, possibly have political leanings towards the far right that are acceptable to the group? This is what annoys me a little, and I have to state he is not a member of the SBG and that the SBG is a non-political re-enactment society who solely portray the average soldier of the Waffen-SS in 1944.

    As for the individual you spoke to within the SBG, that is not really an issue but perhaps he was flustered by being approached and asked any questions (following the John Sweeney nonsense), and perhaps was not a very articulate person to formulate a cohesive and well thought out response? Can I ask you, as writer of this piece, did you approach other members of the SBG or even other groups and seek their opinions so you can get a fully rounded, and objective opinion?

    To respond to Robin’s comment about my response and statement stating that W-SS re-enactors prefer to keep quiet, I would state that this approach can be hit or miss, depending on the situation. What we have learnt over the past couple of years following Sweeney’s slightly ridiculous and pathetic attempt to create a story where it didn’t exist, is that SOME journalists will happily twist a conversation that helps ‘fuel’ their argument and story. Therefore there is an argument for keeping quiet and not saying anything at all although this fosters the idea that W-SS (and German WW2) re-enactors are hiding something, possibly political agenda’s. Personally I prefer to say it how it was, warts and all … why hide facts that happened in history … and at least if you have an open and honest approach and acknowledge the crimes that occurred under Nazi Germany, perhaps the understanding of past history can prevent this happening again.”

    • Ian, I really think you can’t see the wood for the trees on this one.

      For a history buff distinguishing between Vanilla SS and SS-Allgemeine may be a critical difference – and they seemingly irk you – but for 99% of the population SS is SS is SS. Most people are either offended by neither or both.

      Just to reiterate – the chap I spoke to wasn’t flustered or under pressure – he just didn’t give a very creditable answer. Now if I’d been writing a piece for The Guardian or recording a programme for broadcast I would probably have surveyed a few people. It would still have been a straw poll rather than a proper opinion poll with a statistically significant sample.

      Rather I wrote an account as a punter. I went to a show, saw lots of people re-enacting Axis units and the one I asked about his feelings about playing a member of the SS gave me the above response. All that says to me is that some people can go to these shows, meet re-enactors and come away without the benefit of an unvarnished and frank account of history.

      That said I think this discussion has been useful. I sense that there is a greater degree of responsibility to truth and history than that single encounter might have led me to believe. I can see the value of re-enactments of highly emotive periods of history within living memory but I’m no less convinced than before that re-enactors must be mindful of what they’re doing and never allow themselves, even passively or unwittingly, to feed into the agenda of those who want to resurrect and glorify the memory of an odious regime.

      • Jonathan, this is where the journalist concerned has a responsibility to get things right, and in this instance it doesn’t seem you did. Reenactors, including myself, will quite rightly get annoyed about being associated with Allgemeine SS, and its no good a journalist using the excuse of ‘oh well to the public SS is just SS’. A good journalist does his research properly, a bad one doesn’t. We make strenuous efforts to dis-associate ourselves from egotistic idiots waltzing around in black Allgemeine uniforms, the least we could expect from journalists who want us to work positively with them is that they behave appropriately and ensure that their work reflects our views i.e. not associating us with Allgemeine, so sorry but your response doesn’t wash with me, either as a reenactor or as a fellow journalist. As for your final comments, we ARE mindful of what we’re doing and why we do it, we do take a strong position against any whiff of neo-Nazism or glorification and we make strenuous efforts to communicate with the public so that they understand why we do this.

      • OK – let’s get specific. Nowhere in the piece does it say that the guys in black uniforms are Second Battle Group nor does it attempt to suggest that they are. I attribute the remarks to a member of a particular group based on his belonging to it and my observations of his response being inadequate are because his response of ‘some SS were worse than others’ doesn’t absolve the unit he re-enacts given that it was involved in documented war crimes.
        It might annoy people in the know that I mention one unit and that among a number of photos are pictures of someone dressed in the uniform of another – but the piece is a blog about a day at War and Peace 2012 and not about the SBG.

    • Yes I can see where you’re coming from Ian and why some reenactors choose to keep quiet, but I just think that this course of action is inviting trouble for the reasons that both you and I mention. As for the frequent mention of the SBG in association with a photograph depicting Allgemeine SS in a black uniform, that would seriously annoy me too, and other members of KSK and every responsible reenactor in fact. I think that rightly we have to protest whenever such associations are made either intentionally or unintentionally.

  10. Okay, I think this debate has now run out of juicy material ripe for discussion, since I think the main points have been made. Hopefully, you have learned from this experience Jonathan, the key point being that there are people, such as myself, Tony, Kaben and others both in SBG and KSK and hopefully other groups as well, who will talk openly, fluently and knowledgeably about reenactment and the issues it raises. The trick of course is to find those people as opposed to those who just gloss over the dark bits of history or who remain quiet. As for us, I think the point has also been made, hopefully, that to remain quiet or just avoid the dark bits of history, doesn’t really do anyone any favours, us or the public. Drop by the KSK display next year Jonathan, I am sure we could have a really interesting chat, with the aid of a cuppa or two.

  11. By the way, we’ll be at Detling shortly as well…

  12. James says:

    I was at War and Peace as a British “Tommy”. What are my reasons for portraying a British Soldier? Easy one for me to answer, a total respect, recognition, pride and deepest thanks to all who “did their bit” to keep Fortress Britain free from being imprisoned and controller by a murderer, although it was the Americans and Russians that were mainly responsible for ending the war, it was perhaps Britain that was responsible for Hitler not winning it. The fact that this war is still recent history is even more poiniant to remind us all of what was so nearly the end of any reasoning for human rights in Westen Europe…………….at no point in History has Britain faced such a devistating peril than in the war of 1939-45. I portray different British regiments, Home Guard and Home Front divisions in a recognition of my passionate pride of being British.

    I would never portray an American because there are enough Americans to do that themselves. I too feel un-easy when i see men and Women dressed as Germans, seeing them dressed in SS uniforms sickens me, i just dont get it ! However without these “bad guys” the hobby would be very shallow and un-interesting, just dont dress as SS guys, we dont need to see murders gloryfied.

    • It’s precisely because of the fanaticism of the SS that they need to be portrayed James, like it or not, a portrayal of the SS reminds people of the extent of what could have happened had the Allies lost. I for one think that’s a useful lesson, even if you don’t particularly like it. I don’t think we do glorify it, if we marched around with ‘Deutschland Erwache’ banners you’d probably have a point, but we don’t. We are not unaware of the dark aspects of the history and we do talk about it when the opportunity arises.

  13. chris says:

    I belive to fully understand history you need both sides to be shown , I think re enactors do a great job (well some more then others) But it has to be done right, I dont want to upset anyone but some standards of groups is poor and kit and atitudes leave much to be improved.
    Some groups came across as it was a lads weekend away the beer tent was never empty of re enactors , and there has to be a time when you say im just too old for this privates in there 40s also food was hard to get ,some look rather too well fed, really your ment to be a elite unit also women dressed as men.
    Im sorry but if you really want to portray history do it right

    • kaben says:

      So you are saying that these re-enactors who are putting on a show for you should starve themselves for most of the year to reflect the rationing during the war and the daily marches which would have stripped the fat from their flesh? Get real!
      At the end of the day these people are putting on A show for you to watch – some poetic license should be given as leeway. As for kit, you clearly have no idea how much it costs to kit out a grenadier head to toe in authentic kit. Some members are new to the hobby and others testing to see if it is “for them”. They are not going to spend hundreds and often thousands of pounds on kit straight away – it is accumulated over time. You sir need to manage your expectations and grasp the reality of the situation. These people are not paid anything to display at the shows – they pay from their own pocket to kit themselves and their display out for you to view not taking into account the distance they travel from around the country.
      It is also well within the rights to have a drink and a laugh in the beer tent. This is a HOBBY, not the real army.

  14. Lol, totally agree. I think some perspective is needed here actually Chris….

  15. James says:

    The problem is that its the well fed guys in their 40s that have the money to spend on the vehicles and much of the equipment you see on display. Many of them join a group because of their vehicles and when you join a group you cannot self promote yourself according to age. Half of my group are in their 40s and it would look just as odd if we were all NCOs or Officers. Luckily people in their 40s look younger these days that they did 70 years ago so we can get away with our age for a little longer, A good display and a good degree of believeable accuracy is all the public want. l believe its for the vetrans ( sadly thinning out ) to show them that we will keep their memory alive and the children whos wide eyed faces just want to hold a real gun and wear a tin hat for a few moments, its about heroes and villans but most of all it is a celebration of our freedom!

  16. chris says:

    Ok I apoligise I think it was worded wrong, But I still think If you are going to take part in living history you have to look correct (I dont meen starv yourself ) these guys are living history and I belive if you dont look correct ie kit etc and attitude I belive you are insulting the vetrans

    • History Ian says:

      I can understand what Chris is saying here to a certain extent, a guy who weighs over 20stone with a 50 inch waist and wearing a Panzer uniform looks wrong when compared to someone half the size and more ‘realistic’ in appearance who could actually fit into a Panzer, however this is after all a hobby, and a very expensive one in time and money, and it takes all sorts of people from many walks of life to get into re-enactment. People 70+ years ago were generally fitter than they are now, as a result of both better diets (no MacDonalds back in the 40’s) and because the average job was more physical than it is these days … so if people are overweight and squeezed into a uniform, you have to cut them a little slack. If we were getting paid to do this then that’s a different story …

      Now the quality of kit is a difficult issue. Kaben’s comments about the cost are spot on – however the individual should always be constantly trying to improve the standard of kit they own rather than buy one lot – and perhaps the groups / societies that are associated with should give a list of suppliers they are confident they can purchase the correct kit from? The problem is that there are too many ‘mickey mouse’ items out there that are poor quality or incorrect in size and shape, sold by traders at extortionate prices …

      And a final comment to answer Chris’s last post on here … I agree with what you are saying in that you need to get the kit and attitude as close as possible to the veterans of whom you portray… during the day I tell our members I want 100%, but at the beer tent at night that’s when to let your hair down and enjoy yourself. However each society is different and all have positive aspects that should be commended … some like ours are serious, others more relaxed in how they portray themselves.

      • Welll chaps I think if this discussion has got to the circumference of the participants it has probably jumped the shark or at least chopped up the shark into steaks and chucked it over the campfire to grill slowly.

  17. History Ian says:

    Jonathan – I think this one is well and truly grilled 🙂

    Perhaps a new discussion thread but on something very related to the original topic of this blog? Perhaps on people’s thoughts about general public attending organised shows dressed in Nazi uniforms or other uniforms just as sensitive in nature?

    • Well I think even most re-enactors would baulk at that. You have the defence of historicity and the need to portray both sides. Turning up to a non historical event dressed as a Nazi is difficult to read as anything other than a political statement or a crass misjudgement – c.f. young Harry Windsor…
      To be honest my interest in War and Peace was as a visitor to a local event. It’s just that it raised issues that I wanted to address and it prompted a pretty lively and largely useful discussion. However I hadn’t expected it to stray into the subject of whether that portion of the population that is now categorised as obese should be excluded from portraying people in an era when obesity was far less common.

    • James says:

      Ok, my thoughts in a nutshell……..Its hard to imagine people dressed as Nazis other than for a send up or being at a Fancy Dress party, would have anything less than a sympathetic leaning towards the ideals of right wing terrorism!

      lndeed i may be wrong, but these people make me feel very uncomfortable, but then that may be their agenda in the first place.

      l dont mind people dressed as Nazis as long as they are portraying prisoners of war and not standing around gloating at the fact that they are in some way superior when they are really the hated minority…………………when i was a boy i saw these same people, we called them skin heads and they were right wing then……………..enough said which should cause a reaction to get the subject back on track!

      • Well I have to say I feel grossly insulted by that comment, I am left of centre in my politics, defiantly anti-Nazi and have never been a skinhead in all my days, and I am definitely not a terrorist. You are basically talking out of your posterior, probably because you actually know nothing at all about German re-enactors, and probably have never even bothered to stop and talk to them either.

      • James says:

        A Nazi Uniform is any uniform worn with a swastika present, but it is the SS that i cause offence, not the common German soldier. It is what you may appear to represent that can insult those who are not re-enactors, the memory of WW2 is still clear in the heads of the elderly and the scars run deep, you cant change an initial gut feeling lm afraid. When i was younger back in the 80s i was a rocker, i stitched a Luftwaffe eagle onto by denim cut off just to look like a bad boy and my father who was an ex-vet saw it, he went mad and nearly threw me out of the house! l hate to think what he would have done if i had become a re-enactor and chose to be German. There seems to me to be something sinister about wanting to join the dark side, dont get me wrong i would want to be at events without you guys because then the whole thing would be meaningless, but please dont expect me to fraternise with you, perhaps i have read too many books and watched too many documentries, and been brought up by parents that were in the war. When we were kids we played soldiers, goodies and baddies, cowboys and Indians, British, Yanks and Germans………………who chose to be Indians or Germans, nobody! Maybe lm missing the point, perhaps your making a point here of reminding everyone why the allies were fighting for a free world, but every time i make a comment you get defensive, i get told of how the German soldiers suffered at the hands of the allies……………………….bollocks! how about 6 million Jews being murdered, look into each and every one of there faces and then tell me this was an act of pure evil that by the Nazis that cannot be forgiven no matter what the isolated reprisal were. l know why i wear my uniform, i wear it with pride and dignity, l have a deep gratitude that we are now able to live in a relitively peaceful multi-racial society and that i am able here to share my views on this without the risk of being arrested or murdered in my bed in the middle of the night.

        No, i say strength to you guys for portraying the ordinary German, he too was often a victim of Nazi fear, but when we see the SS proudly strutting around, let the day end seeing them beaten and perhaps paraded as prisoners, lm sure the public would love it!

      • James, you’re absolutely right that it was an act of pure evil, and that’s why, alongside the interest in WW2 generally, we choose to portray the SS, or at least I do anyway. It’s a bit like a vaccination, a small bit of something bad injected in order to achieve a positive result, the positive result in this case being that we make people think about the SS, the Nazi’s and thus remember the veterans who helped to put an end to that regime. And you’re wrong about some of the elderly at least. I was talking quite amicably with a veteran of the landings at Gold Beach during my stay at the War & Peace Show this year, and then again just recently with a veteran of a fusiliers regiment who fought in Italy, including at Casino, and who showed me his photographs of his unit. So, actually, quite a few elderly including many veterans are all too pleased to talk to us. You just assume we’re all potential neo-Nazi’s when actually we’re really not. Still, that’s your choice if you want to think like that, even if your assumptions are wholly, in my experience, incorrect.

  18. greg says:

    james….you need to go away and have a read of a few books and do a little research into re enactment since the early days of the B.R.A…..you say your a re enactor yet you find people in “nazi” uniforms upsetting…please define your version of a “nazi”uniform???…….and seeing these people as pow”s is better you say???..so if some one re enacts the pow camps of german troops run by the allies with the systematic torture/starvation and brutality showed by their captors(british and american) then that would be ok???????makes you think!

  19. History Ian says:

    I have been re-enacting Waffen-SS now for 15 years (I am not a skin head, not a racist, politically I am in the center and do this for the love of history) and in that time I have had the pleasure of being able to sit and chat openly with many veterans from both sides of the conflict. From the Brits who actually fought against the Waffen-SS there is an admiration in their courage and fighting ability … and also to their apparent fanaticism. The same Brits expressed a hatred of the Nazi regime, however none expressed a hatred of the combat soldier (Heer or W-SS). Granted there is the occasional exception to this. Given it is really these guys who should have a deep rooted hatred … it begs a question why it is only really in the 1990’s and onward that the general public appear to have this ‘hatred’ of the SS and be more outspoken? Is it that the public are more aware through media of the atrocities committed in the camps by the Nazi’s? Before this time the main films were war films, glorifying the feats of Spitfire Pilots and British Para’s at Arnhem, where it was essential to have the ‘baddies’ to get across the message of ‘they were the bad guys’. It was even possible for comedians to ridicule the Nazi’s and poke fun … if this was undertaken now, I wonder what people would say?

    James, I would like to give you an insight in to one of the Waffen-SS veterans I know well. He was drafted in to the armed services at the same time as his brother in 1942 – they were told to report to their local school where 4 tables were set up (Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Waffen-SS). In line they were instructed to go to the next vacant table – his brother went in to the W-SS and himself into the Luftwaffe as ground crew. Neither had a choice which branch of armed service they went in to, they were told they were old enough to fight and that was all.

    He spent a year in the Luftwaffe before he (and his company) were told to report to a train section which they duly did. All clothing was removed and they were issued with basic infantry uniform and equipment – they were now transferred in to the W-SS. They had no choice in this happening so does this make him a bad person? He did 6 weeks basic training, became a driver and then in Normandy he was with a mortar crew. He was wounded, taken prisoner, beaten and starved and taken to the USA until released in the late 40’s. He was a soldier and was treated as a war criminal because the victorious ‘Allies’ failed at Nuremberg to differentiate between the SS / SD and the Waffen-SS. This guy was not a Nazi although he grew up under the regime – should he be labelled as such?

    • James says:

      Its a bit like how foreigners see the typical British tourist as a drunken yob! We know it is sometimes the badly behaved minority that give the whole group the same label. I have given this controversial view in order for you to help me understand why re-enactors are so passionate about portraying the German soldier, but mainly the SS, the words i say are how i feel and indeed the way that it is largely portrayed by the media. My father respected the ordinary German Serviceman, in fact i do recall one of the stories that he told me. He was in the RAF, based in Scotland at the time. One day a single German fighter plane appeared, circled the airfield and without any aggression landed his plane and got out with his hands in the air. The guards at the airbase were the Black Watch, as the German airman walked towards them with his hands in the air, they shot him! The RAF Pilots and Ground Crew were distraught, they knew it was wrong and that it was murder, fear of the very same thing happening to them on foreign soil was paramount in their minds. My father said that the incident was reported with vigor but nobody was ever brought to book and the incident was kept quiet. After the war he had a motorcycle business, He sold British, German and Czec motorcycles, however at the end of the 50s and into the 60s it was clear that the dominance the European motorcycle industry had enjoyed was gradually coming to an end, the only way to survive in business was to start importing Japanese motorcycles. My father hated the Japs with a vengance and refused to do this, consequently he closed his shop door for the last time in 1969………………………………………i wonder if we had large numbers of Japanese re-enactors at War and Peace, what would our vetrans say to them?

      • History Ian says:

        Well firstly, we all know how the media works and in this country reenactment of anything that is controversial is an easy target, especially if the media are desperate for a story (loose reference here to the ‘Weekend Nazis’ dribble that was produced by Sweenie and the BBC). Thankfully not all journalists are like that and seek a balanced approach to their argument.

        I cant speak for everyone out there who portrays a German Soldier of the last war, either W-SS or Heer, but i was born in the 70’s, grew up on Action Man, films like ‘A Bridge To Far’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, read the ‘Commando’ comics … the Germans were there and considered just a part of history, the enemy that had to be defeated. From here the fascination with uniforms and equipment the Germans had led me down the path of going into reenactment … I did American Airborne for a year and hated it …. but as they say horses for courses. I have no political leanings and fully understand the horror of genocide and the Holocaust – something that any German re-enactor is acutely aware of and will talk about if questioned.

        As for the Japananese re-enactors, they are just as important as all other nations to be portrayed so that they can also be remembered in history and their crimes acknowledged too. Sadly I have not spoken to any veterans who fought them … but perhaps they can see the merit of having them at shows?

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