How about some Waffen-SS on the weekend, son?

Richard Iott is the Republican candidate for the 9th Congressional District in Ohio. He is also the father of a son and came up with an interesting idea for what to do with his son on weekends. As a “father-son bonding thing”, he was an active member for several years of a World War II re-enactment group.

But this American family did not wish to relive the storming of the beaches of Normandy or raise a flag on imagined Iwo Jima. No, they specifically played the part of 5th Panzer (“tank”) Division “Wiking” of the Waffen-SS.

The website of the re-enactment group “Wiking” is a prime example of falsification and trivialization of World War II history. It specifically “educates” about the foreign volunteers that the 5th Panzer Division was mainly made out of: “National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life. … Thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists. … The front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.” – Apparently, this group thinks that part of the authenticity of its re-enactment is the inclusion of pure Nazi propaganda.

Like the whole German military in the East, the “Wiking”-Division was active in the rounding up and the murder of Jews. It was part of the German effort to brutally rid Europe of all races they considered “subhuman”. It committed war crimes and contributed to the Holocaust, up until and including the death marches of 1945 with which the Nazis attempted to murder the last remaining inmates of the concentration camps.


Will this be part of the re-enactment?

It is also not correct to claim that all foreign soldiers in the Waffen-SS were volunteers. Most came from countries that were under German occupation at the time, and many – including some prisoners of war – were forced to join. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (with a significant and laudable contribution by Mr Iott’s home country) ruled that the Waffen-SS was a “criminal organisation” as a whole.

While I appreciate it if people show an interest in my country’s history, I suggest a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington as more appropriate for a “father-son bonding thing”. It might require more intellectual preparation, but you are sure to learn a lot and have a lot to think and talk about. And if you are so fanatical about Germany that you want an original German guide, Mr Iott, I’d be happy to give you and your son a tour.


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Germany, History, Holocaust, Military, Politics, USA, World War II and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How about some Waffen-SS on the weekend, son?

  1. I agree with most of your post, though with a bit of equivocation. I spent some years doing WW2 re-enacting as a member of 11th Panzer Division. While I will agree with you about most of the Waffen-SS and large parts of Das Heer as well, I will ask that you do consider those of us who portray the average German soldier. While there were many in the Army committing atrocities, there were many German soldiers who fought to defend their country, just as the Allies did, even if the political structure they fought for was horrific. As German re-enactors, we have to walk a fine line between paying homage to decent soldiers doing their duty, and the people who think “German=Nazi”. Not all German soldiers were Nazis. Not all German re-enactors are racists or bigots or anti-Semites. While I think the … gentleman (and I use the term VERY loosely) from Ohio (where I live in temporary financial exile from Chicago) is a complete IDIOT, and that any re-enactor choosing an SS unit needs their head examined, I also want people to know that “regular Army” German re-enactors are decent people, trying to show a side of history too often over-run in our excessively “politically-correct” environment. I am not professing racism in any way, just trying to let the world know that, at least for a while, the German soldier was not the walking incarnation of evil. (My apologies if my viewpoint offends, but it is a viewpoint supported by over 30 years of research.)

    • You write of “German soldiers who fought to defend their country”, yet we should not forget that it was Germany which attacked almost all neighbouring countries and declared war on many more. While this certainly can not be blamed on every single Wehrmacht or SS soldier, they did not fight to “defend” their country, but they participated in an offensive war that had the aim of conquering and controlling Europe and large parts of other continents and in the course of that to exterminate some of humankind’s races.

    • Well put, you caught me out on a failure to explain my point. I should have made mention that the war was put forth, to the German people, as defending Germany, and indeed most of Western Europe, from the encroachment of Communism and the imposition of foreign governments on the rights of Germany (meaning the Versailles treaty, primarily). While German soldiers fought a truly defensive war after 1942 or 1943 (depending on theatre of war), the Nazi government coloured the outwardly aggressive assaults on Poland and Western Europe as a “defence” against the encroachment of “Bolshevism” (one of the Nazi’s favourite phrases), and of defeating France and Britain as a defence of the German peoples’ right to self-determination (again, the Versailles treaty and its’ supporting powers).
      I am not defending the government (which is why I refer to them as Nazi), and indeed, the entire German war effort was aggressive in nature. But there were many German soldiers who honestly believed in the “defensive” nature of the early offensives, and indeed, who disliked the intrusive (and dishonest) Nazi government, but fought either for adventure or comradeship. Especially in the early years, there were many decent people in the German forces (though I agree there were also a significant number of truly evil ones, especially in the SS and Waffen-SS), although that number rapidly shrank for a variety of reasons. There were still decent German soldiers in 1944 and 1945, and I simply was trying to defend those individuals in the overwhelming flood of evil which was the Nazi cause.
      I apologise for getting rather long-winded here – I was just trying to avoid any confusion, and better explain myself. I hope I succeeded. And I appreciate your willingness to debate this very sensitive topic – thank you for the opportunity!

  2. Thank you, Andreas, for letting me join you. I hope we can agree to disagree on this one point. I’m impressed by your site so far, and eagerly look forward to exploring it. If you wish to debate this rather hot topic offsite, you may contact me at my Email. Or we can debate here in public – I welcome opposing viewpoints, as I hope to never be to old to learn something new! Many thanks for your patience!

  3. One other service that Americans portraying German WW2 soldiers can provide. We can show people, up close, what a German soldier looked like. This way, a rather poorly informed North Carolina politician and his staff can find out why their new campaign flier has a rather glaring error in it. The BBC tells the story:

  4. Mountainbear says:

    So you’re going to complain about people who re-enact Confederates as well? I mean, the Confederates had slavery…

    Also, you say “and in the course of that to exterminate some of humankind’s races”

    Now which race would that be? The Jews are not a race. Scientifically speaking, there are no human races, except one, the homo sapiens. You will find more genetic diversity in a herd of 50 monkeys than among the entire mankind. That is a simple fact. There is not enough genetic diversity to warrant the term “race”. Yet people still use it.

    You should go to Japan and check how Nazi stuff is used there. I’m pretty sure you’d find a lot to whine about there as well. Ironically, the whole Nazi and SS stuff means little to nothing in Japan. Surprise? No, not really, the Nanking Massacre means little to nothing in Europe. Heck, the Germans have gone so far to utterly IGNORE John Rabe, who, with a small group of English and American citizens, was responsible for saving roughly 250,000 people from the Japanese troops. He’s ignored because he was also in the NSDAP, and there are no good Nazis, according to Germany’s “culture of collective guilt”.

    Let the Americans do what they want. Some may be ignorant. So what? The Euro-peons aren’t any better. I think they’re actually a lot worse. They hide behind their “moral superiority” and their “intellectual” knowledge, both of which are irrelevant and rather dumb.

    • There was actually a German film about John Rabe in 2009 which won – among many other prizes – the German Film Prize for best film. That’s not exactly “ignoring” John Rabe.

  5. Pingback: Why I want to learn Italian | Publish or Perish – Andreas Moser's Blog

  6. german by blood says:

    While hitler was an madman, we have to remember that during his time if you didn’t do as he said you were killed and your family could also be killed. This was common practice all around the world even in the u.s. … While reenactments glorify war and killing it also help us to remember. My mother taught us from a young age never to hate somebody on their skin color or religion , an saying she use to say is that we are like flower and we all have different blooms but our stems are the same.

    • The “Hitler was a madman” explanation is overly simplistic, if not wrong. No one man can rule a large country for 12 years if there aren’t thousands and thousands of willing executioners to help. Let’s not forget that Hitler won large majorities in elections after his anti-Semitic programme was already known.

      Nobody in Germany was killed for not volunteering for the SS or for not applying to work in a concentration camp or for not spying on their neighbours and for not denouncing them of hiding a Jew.

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