Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pt. 3 Hiding in Plain Sight

Joachim Peiper, a Waffen SS officer, was convicted of war crimes from the massacre of over 70 Allied POW's near the town of Malmedy in Belgium during the German Ardennes Offensive. He is in the picture. German troops at the annual "Battle of the Bulge" reenactment in Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA reenact Peiper's unit. These reenactors actually celebrate Adolph Hitler's birthday. They toast him, sing to him, and eat cake! Huh? I can hear it now. "Happy Birthday to you! Now go kill some Jews!" How is this even tolerated on a US military facility? You want to toast Der Fuhrer? Fine! On your own time and in private.

At a living history in Indiana a few years ago, there were Waffen SS reenactors present. Some rocket scientist decided it was a good idea to come in first person personna as Adolph Hitler! Yep! True story, and it gets better! When asked to leave, the SS reenactors in attendance threatened to leave also. They said it was not fair. They planned a ceremony in his honor, and were hoping he would review the troops. They were honored he was there, and they treated him like a god! They all were asked to leave!

I was at an event in Ohio a few years ago at an airport near Cleveland. An African-American family was there. They were newly immigrated from South Africa. The father made mention of Apartheid when he saw the German reenactor camp. One of the SS reenactors overheard him. The reenactor said that the only problem with Apartheid was that they stopped it too soon! Event security cautioned the reenactors that they were treading very close to ethnic intimidation and that they should watch what they say. Comments from the camps were, "So much for a free country!", and "I guess you pigs have never heard of the 1st Amendment!". All this while wearing the SS Death's head hat and the uniform of the Waffen SS! So much for freedom, indeed!

Lori and I went to Chantilly, VA this past weekend to a WWII living history on the Sully plantation. There were US, British, Russian, Canadian and German camps. Some of the gear was pretty good! There was a Kubelwagen, a large display of German weapons and equipment, and even a German halftrack. That is living history. To teach people firsthand what the Allies were up against. You could see Panzerfausts, and see their similarities to the modern RPG. You could see that the AK-47 truly was a derivative of the German MP-44,  much like the American M-60 machine gun came from the German MG-42. It was interesting. I thought, "Here's a group of German reenactors doing it right! It was a good-sized encampment. Then, I noticed an officer with the SS lightning bolts on his collar, and a Totenkopf (Death's head) hat on his cot. It was hidden in plain sight, meaning he was keeping a low profile, but the hatred apparently was there!

Finally, Lori and I had a popcorn-selling and living history display set up by Battlefields and Beyond bookstore in Gettysburg in May. I had some US paratrooper gear set up. I got to talking with 2 groups of guys about reenacting. One guy said that the biggest problem he had was that there were still a lot of WWII vets alive, and he didn't think it was right to have German reenactors. The other group was from German lineage, and they said they reenacted basic German infantry because they had family members who were conscripted into the Wehrmacht. Though they weren't proud of what the leaders of their Fatherland had done, it was who they were! Excellent! Remember your heritage.

I said that almost all of the WWII veterans I talked to (and I've evn talked with Hermann Goering's personal cell guard from when he was in captivity) say they have no problem with the basic German soldier or reenactor. Their problem is with the SS, and they have no idea why someone would ever want to recreate that? All agreed with me.

As I talked with the German reenactors, they told me that even the average German reenactor hates SS renactors. "They're all a bunch of cultists and fanatics! Most of the regular Germans shoot at them too. We do! We just wish we could use real ammo!"

So, there you have it! With the stigma of Hitler, and the aura of hatred, why would anyone want to reenact one of the most hated military organizations in military history unless they themselves shared the same hatred? They use the disguise of history, but they truly I feel are using it for hate!

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