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.
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.