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An open letter to all re-enactors of Waffen SS units

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Ron Goldstein, Jun 27, 2008.

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  1. bigfun

    bigfun Ace

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    Well said Jack, and Ron.

    Having just interviewed a man who was a young boy in Germany during the war, he saw first hand what the SS was capable of. His brother, a Stuka pilot relayed many stories of what the SS did, to everybody and anybody. I have not been reading about WWII for very long, so all of this is new to me. Being that this is new information to me, I get very emotional about it, for everybody involved.

    I think if I told this man that people were reenacting what he lived through, he would not understand at all. Just as Jack stated above, if they knew the full reality of what they represent, they would most likely not do it.
     
  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    You do that Mr Jack. It is good to have you dropping us a line or two.
     
  3. Asterix

    Asterix Member

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    I am very happy to see this question brought to the forefront, and I think Ron is absolutely right to bring it to our attention. I only regret there hasn't been this discussion earlier.

    Living in the USA, and being a WW 2 re-enactor myself, I personally do not have a problem with those who choose to portray the Waffen SS. What raises my concerns is the overwhelming numbers of those who wish to portray the SS. Furthermore, very few of them portray other soldiers/nationalities, as opposed to Allied re-enactors who tend to try on other "impressions" from time to time. Another thing I've noticed, is that re-enactor websites which advertise themselves as an SS unit will always have the usual disclaimer stating their disaproval of the Nazi ideologies of the kind that the SS was usually indoctrinated in. However, in their "Unit History" sections, none of them (to the best of my knowledge) will make any mention of the atrocities perpetrated by the actual members of that particular SS unit being re-enacted/portrayed.

    It's no secret that those who choose to portray the SS, one of the reasons is the sharp uniform. I myself will admit it is very sharp and even stylish. They are also among the most stringent when it comes to uniform authenticity. However, when it comes to battlefield behavioral authenticity, I do wonder sometimes how far they would go to be as accurate as possible. Case and point: If, during a Living History event, attended by members of the viewing public, would they go as far as to "execute" POWs, or civilian minorities such as Jews? Naturally, such re-enacted atrocities would be discouraged at such publicly attended events. However, I would argue then that an important part of WW 2 history is being omitted, or shall I dare say: it is the "Political Correctness" of war re-enacting?

    As such, I would chastise them for being contradictory, if not outright hippocritical in their wanting to be as accurate as possible. I would challenge those who portray SS to live up to the standards of these units by re-enacting all of it: from the daring and courageous frontline actions - to the cowardly murder of civilians.

    Thus, my question to them is this: If there is a group which portrays/re-enacts a unit of the Waffen SS, and a dozen or so other re-enactors appeared, wearing 1930s or early 1940s era civilian clothes with the yellow Star of David on their sleeves or breasts, what would/should they do?.....
    ........accurately re-enact what almost always and certainly did happen, or shield the public (and themselves) from any emotional distress - and in doing so invite historical revisionism?

    Excellent question Ron!
     
  4. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Or even of a Soviet reenactment group they would encounter. No love there obviously either.
     
  5. purljam

    purljam Member

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    Ha! Good idea JCF! I'd love to see a re-enacted battle between an SS division and a Russian division. I wonder if they would get down to the nitty gritty...the bayonets, hand to hand fighting, etc.


    Not to brush off the main topic, and this is my first post here (the History Channel forums are occupied by a couple idiotic Holocaust deniers) so Hallo to everyone.

    Now, on the topic of re-enactors. I am a young 35, and would love to participate in a re-enactment but there aren't any in my area that I know of. I would probably join the Allies if I had a choice, but I'm not going to lie to you...there is an attraction to the German side. I don't know if it's the smart uniforms, the armor they had, or their ability to last as long as they did against such an overwhelming Allied superiority in both men and materials.

    Personally, I don't see a problem with re-enacting the battles of WWII. Hopefully, like someone (I forgot who) before posted, it will serve as an ecuational tool also. I believe that educating the young about the atrocities of the SS will help to stem the attitudes and the glorifying of the SS and their atrocities. Hopefully.

    I'd like to add that I have the utmost respect for the veterans of WWII, and hope that my words and opinions don't offend those who actually fought.
     
  6. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Member

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    "I mentioned in my original posting that I had left another forum because I felt unable to be a member of a site that included a 2nd Waffen SS re-enactor."

    "I now consider that this may have been a mistake on my part and I will not repeat it here so I am afraid that, moderators permitting, you will continue to be subjected to my views on this subject."

    Mr. Goldstein,

    I respect and revere your service to your country, and to the cause of destroying the vile evil of Nazi Germany. Personal accounts such as yours go a lot further than abstract texts to show the depth of evil that was Hitler. Moreover, I commiserate with your family in their loss to the "Final Solution." I can not pretend to understand the depth of feeling that must arise from that. Please don't go anywhere; I for one value your contributions here.

    Having said that, I would ask for some clarification. Does your indictment of the 2nd SS extend to the entire Waffen-SS? While familiar with atrocities committed by troops of specific Waffen-SS units, I've not seen anything to suggest that all Waffen-SS units were criminally active. Please enlighten me.
     
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    David

    I thank you for your appreciation and commiserations and assure you that, G-d willing, I have no intention of going anywhere in the immediate future.

    As requested, I seek to clarify:

    1. When I said "I now consider that this may have been a mistake on my part", the mistake I was referring to was that of my leaving the forum instead of continuing to register my protests.
    I still abhor completely those who would seek to venerate or glorify the like of the 2nd Waffen SS for reasons that are self evident, well documented and universally accepted by the civilised world.

    2. I am well aware that after 1943 the rules of enrolment in the Waffen SS were relaxed and this was taken into account at the Nuremberg Trials (see Wikipedia below)

    3. My original protest concerned a particular site that called itself "The 2nd Waffen SS" and I limited myself to saying that I could not in all conscience remain on the same forum that included the leader of that same re-enactor group.

    4. You may very well be correct in saying that "I've not seen anything to suggest that all Waffen-SS units were criminally active".
    I would merely say that, given my background, I am hardly likely to favour any group of people who would use the name SS to further their cause.

    I trust I have made my position clear

    Ron


    Wikipedia:
    The Waffen-SS was a group of combat units composed of volunteer troops with particularly strong personal commitments to Nazi ideology and selected on racial basis, so that people such as Jews or Poles were not allowed within the organisation. As stated by Himmler, the primary goal of SS formations was to fight Jewish people, people considered subhuman by the racist Nazi ideology (e.g., Poles, Jews, Roma people) and communists[1].

    It was founded in Germany in 1939 after the SS was split into two units[1] but the title of Waffen-SS only became official on 2 March 1940.[2] Although nominally under the leadership of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a political and internal security appointee, the Waffen-SS saw action throughout the Second World War under de facto operational control of the Wehrmacht. During the war it grew to 39 divisions, which served as elite combat troops alongside the regular army.[1][3]

    After the war, at the Nuremberg Trials the Waffen-SS was condemned as a criminal organisation due to their political connections to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), and involvement in war crimes and The Holocaust, this is all except conscripts sworn in after 1943, who were exempted from the judgment on the basis of involuntary servitude.
     
  8. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    This is interesting. Coming from a descendent of a Waffen SS member I have dealt with these views for all of my life. I understand the classification of the Waffen SS as a criminal organization and agree with that. But consider this. If you live in a police state where the smallest infraction can mean your incaceration into the concentration camp system or worse yet, death, how do you respond to orders to shoot prisoners? What if you are asked to be a witness to 'cleansing' of a town with trigger happy soldiers. How would you respond? My grandfather volunteered to fight for Facisism as he knew it. His family were behind Franco and being the youngest male, he went to Germany to join the new order. He wanted to help fight communism. As the war progressed, He made comments that the Germans were 'bloodthirsty'. Yet, once he joined, he was committed for better or for worse. Did he commit atrocities, no more than what he has seen the enemy do. Yes, even the Canadians shot prisoners. But I agree with those who have said that you can't have a WWII re-enactment event w/o units such as the Waffen SS. If all groups are there to present historical events, then I think that is acceptable. I do know that some of the Waffen SS re-enactment groups I have contacted did make a serious effort to keep their candidates informed of rules against glamorizing the politics of the Waffen SS and even to salute in the Army manner and not the National Socialist manner.

    True, seeing such units for those who lived through the hell of the holocaust, of battle, and even of the time will be uncomfortable and feel that such units should be banned. I probably would feel that same. I don't know what the answer is but If I was such a person, I would not attend such events if it is painful to relive such a time.
     
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  9. Parasrus

    Parasrus Member

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    They are such groups. Over here in Russia we have some groups who's reincarnating regular German&Russian units.

    Personally i think the most dangerous and frightened that "glorification" of SS units sometimes happening on the government level. And that we have a huge neo-nazi groups all other Europe.
     
  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    PzJgr

    I have just returned to my computer after reading your original entry a few hours ago.

    I note that you have added text to the original posting including the following:

    “True, seeing such units for those who lived through the hell of the holocaust, of battle, and even of the time will be uncomfortable and feel that such units should be banned. I probably would feel that same. I don't know what the answer is but If I was such a person, I would not attend such events if it is painful to relive such a time”

    If I may, I would like to first comment on this last paragraph.

    I thank you for your remark that “I would probably feel the same” but it was never my intention to visit any re-enactment show, they are just not my scene, but I still reserve the right to comment on the ethics of those who would glorify the SS..

    Earlier in your posting you say:
    “This is interesting. Coming from a descendent of a Waffen SS member I have dealt with these views for all of my life”.

    With respect and if I may paraphrase, I could equally say:

    This is interesting. Coming from a Jewish family who originally fled from Poland to escape life-threatening persecution (my parents) I have dealt with these views (anti-semitism and racial bigotry) for all of my life.

    You go on to say:

    I understand the classification of the Waffen SS as a criminal organization and agree with that. But consider this. If you live in a police state where the smallest infraction can mean your incaceration into the concentration camp system or worse yet, death, how do you respond to orders to shoot prisoners? What if you are asked to be a witness to 'cleansing' of a town with trigger happy soldiers. How would you respond?

    To which I would reply, again with all due deference and not wishing to dodge your question;

    Who voted for the Nazi Party in the first place?
    And who screamed in adulation at the large Party rallies ?
    And who broke the windows and set fire to the synagogues on Kristallnacht ?
    And who betrayed their Jewish neighbours to the Gestapo ?
    And who allowed the Holocaust to occur in their name ?
    And who were delighted to accept the seemingly endless victories?
    And who by their acceptance of the Nazi system unleashed limitless evil upon the world?
    and who….and who….and who……… ?

    I could go on for a long time, but then again, by your own admission you have heard it all before.

    As I have

    Ron
     
  11. wwcharles

    wwcharles Member

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    i beilive as far as war crimes go wasn't that all done by officers should the blame lye on you're average foot soldier???
     
  12. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Greetings Ron,
    Sir, You do state facts but can we really accuse a whole nation of voting 100% for one party? Also, the Party, like the communist revolution, turned evil as time went by. So can we be 100% sure that the German people knew what was going to happen.

    I am not defending what the Nazis did though it may sound like it. I am glad for the contribution of all involved (like yourself) in getting rid of such evil. What I am against is accusing 'everybody'.

    Lets take the American forces in Iraq. We have some stupid individuals who go around teasing the Iraqi people but the whole American people are being labeled by the actions of a few.

    I am grateful for your service and sharing your experiences. I also respect how you feel and I could never come close to imagining what you went through so forgive me if I get out of line. I just abhor stereotyping.
     
  13. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Just a note. Of course we can not judge the actions of the US Army when "some stupid individuals who go around teasing the Iraqi people" but then no US Army command level issued any order to shoot any Baath party member on sight. Now compare that to the Commissar Order, see below:

    Notice that this was signed by the Army High Command, not SS !!! This was all tainted from the very top downwards!

    Below is the most serious indictment of German actions I ever saw. This should indeed be pinned here:
    Axis History Forum • View topic - German and European Axis war crimes FAQs

    On the SS as a criminal organization:
    Axis History Forum • View topic - Judgment on the SS as a Criminal Organization
    The Avalon Project : The International Military Tribunal for Germany
     
  14. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    PzJgr, you have your reason for different response perhaps than many of us re the blanket label on the Waffen SS.

    I would be more apt to agree re the labelling of an entire people being unjust. My Dad was a Vet. He told me briefly of being at the liberation of a concentration camp. I think it was Westerboerk. He was with the forces after the War and with the NATO forces in Germany in the 1950s. My parents did not blanket an entire people and respected and became friends with many of the Germans they met. But anything to do with the SS made my Dad's blood boil and even the mention of the name Kurt Meyer made his jaw clench.

    Remember, this thread isn't about who did what to whom, but about a Veteran with justifiable emotion and reason to state how much he abhors the wearing of Waffen SS uniform by those who (in many instances) are idealizing those who were frequently responsible for rerehensible and horrific acts.

    No side was saintly. I believe that the instances of barbarity were less likely performed by the Allies, at least the Western Allies. If you want to get into the atrocities Ron provided a link on the Malle thread that should suffice. Massacres and Atrocities of WWII in Western Europe I should point out, however, that there are many instances of the SS being guilty of the atrocities and massacres.

    Interestingly, I didn't read any there of the Canadians being guilty of any there; however, I will accept that you would not have made such a statement without there being an instance to which you could refer. At the risk of sounding trite - Combat brings out the best in some, and the worst in others; it would most likely apply to all nationalities.

    Oh, and one last point - when you read some of the instances of barbarity of one group and then the revenge of another on the above link, in some ways the horrors of those days come back to haunt us decades later.
     
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  15. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    They were commited from the very top to the very bottom. Regardless of rank.
     
  16. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Reenacting the German Soldier of WW2

    People always ask -"How can you dress up as a "Nazi" and parade around in that uniform and not feel guilty about what the Germans did in WW2?"
    Well, this is how I look at it. You can't help feeling a greater sense of self-consciousness when you are at an event dressed as a "Nazi" because the majority of the people in the world view you as just that - a Nazi... the embodiment of evil in the 20th century. But, for those of us who study the subject, we know that the average German soldier was not unlike his Allied counterpart. The German soldier was a man called about to do a job. He had not made this war come about, nor was he a political fanatic. He was well disciplined, obeyed his orders and fought bravely. Toward the end of the war he became disillusioned, but nevertheless he did his duty well. If displeased, the German soldier was not inclined to revolt. In defeat, the German soldier retained his pride and self esteem. Even when his country lay in ruin, every man a prisoner and the people of his nation refugees, he knew that he had belonged to what was once considered the best armed forces in the world.In the end, the German soldier realized that he had fought for the wrong ideals and the wrong causes. He was misled by the leaders into which he had placed his trust. He was ashamed of the atrocities. He was trapped in history as an instrument of war. Nevertheless, he remained true to his sworn oath, "For Fuhrer and Fatherland..."
    The German soldier fought bravely and died with honor.

    WW2 German Army Reenacting Page


    "John Colyer, overall re-enactment coordinator, played the role of a unit commander in the 11th SS Nordlanders, Norwegians who fought on the German side at the Russian Front.

    Colyer said that he and his fellow "Nazi" re-enactors didn't support Nazi philosophy or atrocities. Instead, they sought to honor American veterans by reminding people of what Americans were up against.

    "The Germans weren't idiots like the 'Sergeant Schultz' character on television," Colyer said. "They were well-trained and well- prepared, and it took a lot of bravery for Americans to go up against them and defeat them."

    [ War games ] | Topeka Capital-Journal, The | Find Articles at BNET


    2nd Panzer Division
    RULES OF CONDUCT


    Overview

    Throughout history, the German soldier has been one of the most respected and feared opponents. This is especially true of German soldiers in World War II. Unfortunately, German soldiers (especially SS) in World War II were guilty of numerous atrocities, including murderous reprisals against innocent civilians, killing prisoners-of-war, and operating concentration camps.

    To many people, German soldier and Nazi are synonymous. This is not necessarily true. The average German soldier, including most SS troops, were not members of the Nazi party. Most German soldiers (including many SS) were drafted. The average German soldier, like his opponent, was just an average citizen who ended up in uniform, and was desperately hoping to make it home alive. This, of course, does not excuse the actions of those Germans who did, in fact, commit crimes against humanity; but merely serves as a basis from which to explain that not ALL Germans were guilty.

    Realizing that the average American has an immediate and extreme negative reaction to what they believe the German soldier (“Nazi”) to personify, a set of rules regarding conduct and behavior is necessary.

    The goals of our organization are to educate the public and honor the memory of soldiers of World War II through the display and demonstration of the uniforms, weapons, equipment, and tactics used is World War II. It is difficult to educate someone if their initial reaction is one of disgust or horror.


    Rules

    ALL unit members must read, understand, and abide by these rules. In order to minimize to potential impact on the club of negative reactions by non-members, the following rules of conduct have been adopted by the unit and will followed and enforced:

    1. German uniforms (especially those parts of the uniform displaying the swastika, SS runes, deaths-head, or readily identifiable as German - such as the helmet) will not be worn outside of the immediate display, demonstration, or reenactment area. Any further rules/restrictions desired by the hosting agency regarding wear or display of German uniforms, flags, insignia, etc. will be followed.

    2. Display of the swastika, SS runes, or any emblem readily perceived as "Nazi" will be restricted to the absolute minimum required for historical accuracy to identify things such as captured equipment or used to identify German items. We will not, for example, fly or display the "Nazi" flag or any flag baring the swastika emblem where it may be seen by the public, or use the "Nazi" salute.

    3. Fellow members, and especially visitors, will be treated with the utmost politeness, courtesy and respect. Any individual or group attempting to provoke a confrontation for any reason should be politely ignored, or referred to the unit or club leadership. At no time should we be provoked into a hostile response. Attempted intimidation or threats of violence should immediately be reported to the unit commander, board of directors, hosting agency, and if necessary, local law enforcement.

    4. Members are not permitted to use club events as a forum to advocate their personal beliefs. We are and will remain, non-political. This club is NOT a Nazi, neo-Nazi, survivalist, or militia organization. Speeches, discussions, and dissemination of information (in any form) judged not to be in the best interests of the RPS, or directly related to the aims and goals of the RPS are forbidden.

    5. Derogatory, stereotypical or demeaning names, nicknames, slurs, jokes, insults, characterizations or references are also prohibited.

    6. All rules, regulations, policies and by-laws of the RPS, RPS German Forces, and individual unit are to be adhered to at all times. Violators will be dealt with severely.

    The German soldier is traditionally well known for his discipline and his honor. This is a tradition which we shall continue. Discipline is the hallmark of the soldier. One component of discipline is obedience to rules. The soldier who wishes honor, will first exhibit discipline.


    Visitors

    Visitors Policy for German units is as follows:

    1. A visitor must call one of the unit commander prior to the event and ask permission to attend and fight with that unit.

    2. A visitor will act as a private regardless of uniform rank.

    3. A visitor must fall within the scope of one of the units already portrayed in the RPS.

    4. A visitor is allowed to come twice a year as a visitor. A third visit and he will join one of the existing units and accept the German battalion rules and rank and award guidelines.

    5. Upon joining the club a veteran German reenactor can submit in writing an account of his previous experience to be considered towards rank and awards.

    6. ANY EXCEPTIONS To these rules MUST BE pre-approved by the battalion commander BEFORE the event"

    2nd Panzer Division Reenactors


    .2 Impressions and minimum standards:

    a) Participants are to be appropriately dressed/uniformed/equipped/trained to reflect the role portrayed and should only present appropriate impressions. For example, even at "open invite" events, certain impressions are not allowed eg SS personnel. Please refer to EventPlan's individual event web page(s) if in doubt, or contact us to ask. We reserve the right to exclude persons/impressions that we deem inappropriate (or lacking minimum standards of authenticity) from our events.

    http://www.eventplan.co.uk/conditions_of_participation.htm
     
  17. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    JCFIII

    Thank you for your lengthy reply to my original question which, I'd remind you, went as follows:

    My question to the SS re-enactors is as follows:
    I would be extremely obliged if any re-enactor who go in for dressing up as a member of the SS would explain to me the nature of his “cause” and what benefits he feels he derives from the re-enactor unit activities.


    Having studied your reply I confess to being a tad puzzled as to whether or not it was in fact taken directly from the rules of the 2nd Panzer Division site and quoted word for word?

    Have I got this wrong, or did in fact you write the original piece ?
    Perhaps you would be good enough to clarify this for me.

    Whilst reading the 2nd Panzer Division rulebook I was struck with an acute sense of deja vu and then realised that the apologia for
    the "average" German soldier in WW2 rang a bell and I hastened to my records and in particular the German propaganda leaflets in my Army Album.

    These leaflets were shelled into our lines in the North of Italy, were a welcome alternative to those filled with explosives and at the time in question provided us with an extra supply of toilet paper :D

    The one that "rang a bell" for me was entitled "He also had been told" and the text went as follows:

    He also had been told
    that the Germans are a horde of Huns and barbarians, posing as supermen and with only one idea, to bring all Europe under their tyranny of terror.
    He also had been told
    that it was the sacred duty of all liberty-loving men to free Europe from the bestial cruelty of these Nazis.
    He also had been told
    that in fighting against these Huns it was necessary to hold out to the last, as the Germans illtreat and even kill their prisoners.

    The day came when he was taken prisoner.
    The "Hun" who had captured him pulled out his first-aid kit, bandaged his wounded hand and gave him a cigarette.
    The "Hun" who brought him to the dressing station gave him a drink from his own flask
    and saw to it that hat he came under the doctor's care at once.
    The "Hun" doctor who skilfully and gently extracted the splinter from his hand, gave him another cigarette and sent him off with a friendly pat on the back.
    The "Hun" who brought him to the prisoners' camp knew a little English and told him and some of his pals all about his home and his family.
    Then he understood
    that all these German soldiers were neither Huns nor wild beasts nor did they pose as supermen. Thev were boys like his friends Bill, Fred and George, boys with the same claims on life as the English soldiers and, like them they were also fed up with war.
    And so everything was quite different
    from what his newspapers and wireless, full of hate-propaganda, had been dinning into his ears. He had been the victim of a swindle, for he knew well enough now from all the German soldiers he had met and learned to know, that they were incapable of committing the atrocities recounted daily by his papers. They wanted to live in peace and attend to their work, and for this it was necessary that the world should allow them the same rights as any other nation. They were fighting for these rights and would not cease fighting until they obtained them. But nothing was further from their thoughts than to wish to dominate Europe. On the contrary, OR their Eastern Front they were fighting the battle of this very Europe against the Asiatic hordes of the steppes beyond the Urals and the Caucasus, who, stirred up by Bolshevism, had attacked Europe with murder, violence and robbery. They would not be satisfied with the conquest of Germany alone, their goal was the revolutionising of the whole world. And while the Germans were fighting desperately against this onslaught,they were defending' not only their own lives but were fighting for Europe and also for England, for him. Bill, Fred, George, and for everyting that made life worth living.
    And so he began to reflect!
    If everything that the anti-German hate-propaganda was saying was untrue, if the truth was something quite different, then there must be someone with an interest in this senseless Slaughter, among the nations of Europe. There must be someone who profits by all the suffering and misery of war.
    Who is it?
    This is a question worth thinking over.

    ps
    The highlighting in RED is mine
    Ron
     

    Attached Files:

  18. Stefan

    Stefan Cavalry Rupert

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    Interesting thread and good question, I USED to re-enact the Waffen SS, I could maybe explain a few of my reasons and perhapse explain a little of the context in which I a) got into it and b) stopped.

    I started when I was a bit younger, 15 ish, and wanted a re-enactment group that I could join fairly realistically because of my age. The first one I came across was a group who re-enacted the 12th SS PzDiv, since they wouldn't let me join until I was 16 I started researching the unit and by the time I joined I had read more about the subject than most of the long standing members (I believe I was the only one for example who was aware that there was no one under 18 in the division when it went into combat for the first time, so the stories of 16 year old kids fighting were bunk, at least early on).

    I was fascinated by the concept of a division formed from guys my age, their training, indoctrination and their attitude when they actually got to the front. I think I also had a different perspective to most people as I found the way the state used the ideolism and enthusiasm of these boys to it's advantage. Quite a worrying thought to someone who is in the same (generally enthusiastic but stupid) mindset as most mid-late teenagers.

    Why did I want to re-enact it? Because I don't like the idea of bits of history being missed out, as has been said, you go to an event and you see that everyone re-enacts the British or USA (mainly 101st Airborne at that point) and it just seems wrong, so someone has to re-enact the 'bad guys.' So why not normal German infantry? Well, partly because my interest by this point was in the SS, I knew more about it and so that was a natural way to go. Also, one of the things that really facinated me was the way that fairly ordinary people re-enacted to thoroughly extroadinary circumstances. I wanted to actually stand and explain to people that those 18 year old boys weren't so dissimilar from the rest of us, but due to the system they were embroiled in when they grew up they did some totally abhorrant things. There was a lot more to it but they are some of the key points. Effectively I had an interest and found a good way to teach people more about it whilst also (hopefully) balancing out the re-enacting scene a little. I THOUGHT most people were similarly motivated.

    I don't know if you have noticed but on most SS re-enacting group websites there is a disclaimer about not idolising or espousing Nazi beliefs etc. Now, I won't go into the flaws with that (there are some pretty dodgy characters involved in the SS re-enacting scene over here, most of whom get away with it through the 'ask me no questions I'll tell you no lies' logic), however most SS re-enactors are very quick to claim that their main interest is in education. Fair enough. There arose a debate in the group I was a part of on the subject of uniforms worn after hours, in the beer tent at events etc when the publick had left. This was the beginning of the end of my SS re-enacting career.

    One of the major draws of the SS as a theme for re-enacting is kit, not necessarily the uniforms but things like camoflage clothing which set trends throughout the militaries of Europe, specialist equipment, weapons that few others had access too (particularly those from the early war factories they bought out) and so on. The variety of things someone re-enacting the ordinary Landser could wear were immense. This wasn't enough for some of the 'Mr Benn' types though who wanted a new uniform to wear in the beer tent and tended to go for things like black Panzer uniforms, fair enough, however soon people started adding medals, rank insignia and then going for different uniforms, dress and parade uniforms for example. This is where my problem lay.

    Now, sure, if you want to educate the public by showing them SS uniforms etc, go ahead, however there comes a point in the great 'quick change cabaret' act that the end of an event became when loads of people would transmute from tired looking soldiers to gaudy officers ready to strut their stuff. Now, no one is learning from this, the community doesn't benefit from this, all you are doing at this point is dressing up as a Nazi (because you are no longer representing the person who wore the uniform, simply donning a Nazi costume) to swan around in your free time. To my mind that is weird and distasteful. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people collecting this stuff and displaying it, it is when it is either venerated or indeed worn as 'pulling gear' that I start to worry.

    So that is the crux of the reason I left my SS group, I was fed up with the fact that people seemed less interested in portraying soldiers and educating the public and more interested in dressing up as Nazis. To me, that just ain't right.

    To put my view very simply, I feel that no part of history should be missed out and that if you can portray something in a tasteful and objective manner then that is reasonable. There are certain areas of the war so distasteful that this is impossible, these can be taught in different ways, however I feel that with the right attitude the SS can be portrayed in an appropriate way. I do however thing it is unfortunate that now it has become so popular that entire events seem swamped with divisions of SS.

    Once or twice I talked to veterans of Normandy and other operations at events and once they learned that I wasn't a Nazi, just an interested youth who wanted to help teach others about a little bit of what went on they seemed to understand. I remember one chap even asked to try on the equipment I was carrying to see how it compared to his load and so on. That said, please do not be offended if you see an SS re-enactor and try to talk to him but his reaction to 'I fought against your lot' (or my favourite, 'last time I saw a kid in that uniform I shot at him') is a slightly nonplused look and detatchment, it's quite a daunting thing to have a veteran approach you as all of a sudden you have to almost justify your existance. Sadly most people haven't thought about it enough.

    One final question, if re-enacting the Waffen SS is wrong because soldiers committed attroceties, does that make re-enacting Army units wrong (atroceties in Russia are so quickly forgotten), how about U-Boot crews who's records weren't exactly pristine and so on? This I fear is an unfortunate problem, that people think we can blame the SS for everything bad that happenned and decide that all Army soldiers (etc) were simply young men forced to fight for their lives and their homelands whilst the SS were vile indoctrinated beasts who fought for the glory of Hitler. Sadly it isn't this clear cut, many army soldiers were Nazis through and through (though obviously at the end of the war most forgot this), many in the SS were not and were in fact draftees of one sort or another (the 9th SS Pz Div was conscripted, in late 1944 the 12th SS PzDiv was brought back up to strength with Luftwaffe ground crew, KM shoremen and assorted other men who had never wanted to join the army, much less the SS).

    Sorry that is such a mamoth post but it's a serious issue and thanks for getting this far if you managed it. As for what I do now, well I don't re-enact so much any more, haven't been to an event in over a year largely because my own service career has taken over and I don't really have the time to attend events.
     
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  19. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    Stefan

    I am indebted to you for a most frank and revealing answer to my original query.

    I was particularly interested in your taking up the subject of the "disclaimer" that all of the reenactor sites now display

    You say:
    .

    Without exception these disclaimers remind me of the cancer warnings on on the outside of a cigarette packet and I would guess that they have probably been written for the site by a friendly lawyer.

    While I have the floor, may I thank others for their positive postings, namely Za Rodinu & Michelle (who always seems to be coming to my rescue !) and I am grateful for all your replies to date.

    Ron
     
  20. Stefan

    Stefan Cavalry Rupert

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    Thankyou for reading my post Ron, hope it made clear at least why I got into and out of that end of the hobby. As for the disclaimer, they are not written by a lawyer as a rule but follow a fairly set template. The rule books are generally fairly similar as well, if not always as strictly adheared to as I should like. As a friend once poitned out to me, all it would take is a couple of ex-SS re-enactors telling the press some of the goings on, naming a few names and maybe recording some of the 'beer tent' conversations and the hobby would collapse. Most of us however have too many friends left doing it for legitimate reasons to want to ruin things for them.


    Think you hit the nail on the head with the second comment there, very true. As for the first comment, there is little love lost between SS and Soviet re-enactors, despite the fact we face many of the same challenges. I think part of it however is that as a Soviet re-enactor you can (and often do) tell the public about some of the actions of Soviet units, thus they learn of attroceties in context rather than marching in with a vague idea that you must be evil.

    As for battles, I still have friends who re-enact SS and once or twice we have been asked to add a little more realism to battles, one example being a full on fight with knives, helmets and spades, all carefully choreographed and representing to at least some extent the intensity of the fighting in many areas.
     
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