On Being a Wiking

On Being a Wiking

By Robert M. Citino
10/12/2010 • Fire for Effect

In the words of that great screenwriter Cameron Crowe, I’m “almost famous.”

Last week I was contacted by Joshua Green, Senior Editor at Atlantic Monthly.  Seems there is a candidate running for Congress in northwestern Ohio who has been part of a Waffen-SS re-enactor group. Their aim, like that of re-enactors everywhere, was to “live history,” in this case the history of the 5th SS Panzer Division, a multinational mechanized formation nicknamed “Wiking.”  Green wanted to know my thoughts about the Division and those who would re-enact it.  I said some negative things, and I stick by them:

What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that’s kind of a dodge. The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of ‘subhumans,’ Slavs were going to be enslaved in numbers of tens of millions. And of course the multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether. That’s what all these folks were doing in the East. It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend.

This story has “had legs,” in the journalistic vernacular.  It’s been reprinted and reported just about everywhere, and I had the singular experience (for me at least) of being mentioned by name and quoted in the New York Times and by Anderson Cooper on CNN.  In the manner of these things, some people have agreed, some have disagreed, and I’ve gotten eMails running the gamut.  Hey, no surprise there.  This is America. 

But there is one further thing I’ve noticed:  the number of notes I’ve gotten from re-enactors protesting their innocence and accusing me of accusing them of–I don’t know–all being Nazis, I guess.  Such notes I consider to be completely unnecessary.  In my line of work, I know somewhere between 100 and a bazillion re-enactors of all stripes.  It seems like a neat hobby, and for those who really do the prep work involved in a good re-enactment, it can be a learning experience of the first order.  They take their fair share of grief from outsiders, I suppose, but I say:  Here’s to the re-enactors!

I’d like to remind my re-enactor friends, though, to beware of the company they keep.  I don’t personally have the re-enactor gene, but I have, over the years, been a member of another misunderstood community that has had to endure its share of mockery.  I am a wargamer:  board wargames, that is, the ones with hexagon maps and all those little cardboard counters.  I own somewhere between 100 and a bazillion, from all the classic companies–Avalon Hill, SPI, GDW–as well as their numerous modern successors. 

While I had a ball, especially back in graduate school when I actually had time to set up and play a monster game like Drang nach Osten, I can tell you one thing about those days.  There was a fringe element in the hobby that worshiped the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS, and, I sometimes suspected, Hitler himself.  Ask anyone who was wargaming back in the 70’s and 80’s, and I’m sure they’ll confirm what I’m saying.  The number of wargames back in the day that seemed to be channeling the Wehrmacht on their box covers–usually with a cover image of a German army or SS officer in a heroic pose–was a topic discussed constantly in the wargaming press. 

We loved the games, in other words, but a lot of us were embarrassed about what seemed to be a kind of adolescent crush on the Wehrmacht.  I remember how exciting it was when The Avalon Hill Game Company came out with their second gamette in the Squad Leader series.  It dealt with the eastern front, it was called Cross of Iron (German reference there), but it had an image of a Soviet officer on the cover.  It seemed things were evening up a bit.

So, to all my re-enactor friends, I say this:  I really don’t think it’s good for the anyone in the “Living History” community to be dressing up in the uniform of a criminal organization.  The war in the east was more than a mere military campaign, and the Waffen-SS wasn’t just “soldiering.”  They were fighting a “war of extermination” (Vernichtungskrieg).  The historical record of the Waffen-SS is as clear as you can get, it isn’t a pretty one, and I think there are better ways to spend your free time.


PS:  For a discussion of the “Wehrmacht problem” in the wargaming and scholarly community alike, take a look at the interesting recent book by Ronald M. Smelser and Edward J. Davies II, The Myth of the Eastern Front:  the Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture.  I don’t agree with everything the authors have to say, but it was a fascinating book to read.

For more discussion of the war, the latest news, and announcements, be sure to visit World War II Magazine’s Facebook page.

191 Responses to On Being a Wiking

  1. Chico says:

    I might agree, but as we just had a state funeral of sorts for Robert Byrd — who not only dressed up as a Klansman but was a member of their leadership paid to recruit new members — I think we can survive a guy who just dressed up as a German barring evidence of National Socialist intent. After all, this candidate never hurt anyone. Compare that to Byrd who refused to say how many innocent Afrcan-Americans he lynched in the dark service of the KKK. I personally would not vote for either man, but if An actual Klansman is fit to serve as president in the upper house then I’m confused why a man who play acted as a Wiking isn’t fit to be a backbencher in the lower house.

    • popsiq says:

      Byrd never did manage to put his youthful aspirations into action, did he? He missed the time of the lynchings and he never tried to pass himself off as a nazi, pseudo or other wise.

      I doubt he would get elected today as he was that first time, the Viking’s experience is indicative of that. Byrd, thank providence, as I’m sure he would, had the opportiunity to expiate his sins.

    • Lenore Sword says:

      I had heard about this re-enactor, running for Congress. Quite frankly, I didn’t know WHAT to think. Thank you for helping to put this issue into some perspective. It seems that there is reason to be concerned that someone who plays the part of a Nazi, might indeed (but not necessarily) be a Nazi sympathizer. I can now understand the outcry from both sides: the critics, as well as the re-enactor commuinity. Thank you.

  2. michael says:

    Dr. Citino, do you ever attend the WBC? Or do you mainly play remotely?

  3. Chico says:

    As I tried to post previously and will summarize, we just had a near-state funeral for an actual member — and a recruiter — of the Klu Klux Klan, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. If he was allowed to become the president of the Senate, why can’t a man who only played the part of an actor not be allowed to be a back bencher in the lower house of Congress? The re-enactor never hurt anyone, but Senator Byrd refused to his dying day to talk about all the innocent African-Americans he lynched. Is this not a valid point, HistoryNet? I love your site and would hate to be one of those people who assumes his points of view are censored. That’s not what history is about.

  4. Phranqlin says:

    I play historical miniature war games and have noticed a similar fringe element. Miniature wargamers tend to be quite interested in how Germany fought in in WW2. But most treat the Germans as simply another side to be played in a game, along with the Soviets, British, Americans, etc. However, a small subgroup of gamers is a little too enthusiastic about playing the Nazis and similarly focuses on their military might while downplaying their atrocities. My theory is that Nazi propaganda was very effective at targeting young men and is still hooking and reeling ’em in 70+ years later, even after the Third Reich has been utterly destroyed and discredited.

    Then again, the Nazi wannabes are nowhere near as fanatical and numerous as the Confederate wannabes.

  5. The Forester says:

    As someone with a mild interest in re-enactments (I occasionally visit them, but don’t otherwise participate), I will say that it wouldn’t be at all interesting without both sides being represented. I’m sure many of the participants (I wouldn’t venture to guess what %) take a purely intectual interest in the Confederate, Fascist & Communist forces. I’m equally certain that there’re some whose interest is based on darker motives. However, if I were interested in a political career I’d probably avoid associating myself with any of these groups.

  6. […] found this interesting.  There’s a tangential link to politics, but that’s not the interesting […]

  7. Patrick Hays says:

    I have just finished reading Richard J Evan’s coming of theThird Reich. If anyone has any doubts as to what the SS and the Nazi Party wanted to do the racial inferior I suggest reading this book. The SS in all of its various incarnations was evil and made no real effort to hide this fact. To honor this group by dressing up as members and parading around as them for a weekend leaves one open to all sorts of questions as to were your sympties lie. As I am an oldtime wargamer, I understand the allure of being Germany, they ran wild for three and half to four years and lost. Wargaming the what ifs of the war is very intriging!

  8. Eric says:

    Oh, puh-leeze! If war re-enactments are to happen, someone has to play the bad guys. It would be a pretty lame display if everyone refused to play an enemy for fear of some stigma down the line. Next time there is a movie with a evil character in it, maybe they should just put a cardboard cut-out in front of the camera?

    • Old Trooper says:

      The “bad guys” don’t have to be Waffen SS, they can Wermacht or anything else.

      There can be no doubt about what the SS consciously and openly subscribed to, they were the murderous elite founded on a total loyalty to Hitler and his insane philosophy.
      The SS actively practised racial extermination, battle atrocities and were never governed by any of the accepted mores of civilised behaviour. All historical fact, supported by numerous cases of formal complaints by numerous Wermacht commanders.

      Be in no doubt that reenactment is a commemoration; should such a philosophy and obscene and barbaric body be commemorated by those of us who benefit from living in a democracy founded and maintained on principles opposed to those murderous philosophies the SS stringently applied?

      Before anyone asks, yes I’ve served and done active service on more than a few occaisons over a forty year service.
      I know what isn’t acceptable (and wasn’t even in 1939) in War.

      • Nerdenwerfer says:

        The above comment typifies many from people misinformed about the complete nature of the SS.

        It is true that the origin of the SS was as the armed wing of the Nazis. What changed later was it also became a vehicle for incorporating foreigners into the German military apparatus. Very often these were people that did not love Nazism or support their racial aims, but rather wished to fight communism.

        How do I know this…my father was one of them. He was a young Latvian who had many friends and some family killed by the Soviets. The Latvian SS was the only way for him and others to join the fight…not to advance the aims of Hitler but to keep Stalin out of their homes.

        Not that I am a re-enactor but if I were to be one it would be as part of the 19th Lettische…does that make me a sympathiser?

        From my families perspective we could easily say that people should not re-enact as Soviets because they too were ideologically driven murderers.

        So to the author of the article who seems to regard himself well informed enough about peoples intent to make the above sweeping statements I say this. In future try not to form your opinions of people based on some people you didn’t like at college.

      • Old Trooper says:

        Well Nerdenwerfer
        perhaps you also should read the history about your Latvian heroes.
        Didn’t Dad tell you the whole story?

        19. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (lettische Nr. 2) was formed when 2. Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade was upgraded to a division.

        It fought the Red Army until it ended the war in the Kurland pocket.

        Notable members
        Bruno Streckenbach (SS-Gruppenführer, head of Einsatzgruppe I (and their distinct role was…?) during the invasion of Poland, head of Amtsgruppe I of Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) 1940-1942)

        Notable members
        Viktors Ar?js (commander of the infamous Ar?js Kommando, a Latvian unit of the Lettische Hilfspolizei responsible for the murder of 20.000-30.000 Jews, served briefly as battalion commander in 1945)

        Officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen and Concentration Camps
        Concentration Camps 5
        (includes officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen or Concentration Camps either prior to or after service in this unit)

        It was sent to West Prussia to recover from the losses suffered the Soviet offensive in the autumn of 1944. It returned to the front in January 1945 and continued fighting the Red Army until the end of the war when it managed to surrender to the western Allies.

        Known war crimes

        At Podgaje (Flederborn?) in Pomerania 32 Polish prisoners from 3. Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division Polish First Army were killed on 2 February 1945 by soldiers from 15. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS and SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 48 General Seyffard of SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Brigade Nederland. (1)

        Perhaps you should reenact/commemorate the 19th SS Lettische, you will need some “bad guys” in period civilian clothing, half starved and terrified enough to dig their own graves of course.
        If you play authentically it should be real fun.

        I also had a father who fought in WW2, on the side that destroyed facism in it’s tangible form that the SS represented. (Brit Army LRDG then SAS, Middle East/ Italy/Europe 1941-45)

        And finally I didnt sit comfortably in college; I worked my way up through the ranks; fought communism in Vietnam, in addition to various terrorist groups in other parts of the world including before retirement, Iraq and Afghanistan.

      • LostLT says:

        First and foremost: the Germans and their aims in WWII were among the most evil in human history, and that should not be forgotten.

        However, as Nerdenwerfer states, there were many folks who joined the Waffen SS as a way to strike a blow at communism and the Russians. The Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Wiking Division is an example. While their were Nazis and fascists among their number, from the accounts I read most just wanted to kick some Russian butt in revenge for the invasion of their country.

      • ThePatriot says:

        Mr. Old Trooper’s misinformation is outrageous!!!!

        How can there be ANY accusation towards the small Latvian nation that has suffered almost as much as Jewish population during the war and still suffers from extremely shameless preposterous defamation stimulated by strong lobby in the ‘big’ countries. Has anyone heard of Jewish savers in Latvia, people who risked their lives to help their Jewish neighbors???
        I strongly encourage you to read Jewish author’s book ‘Amidst Latvians during the Holocaust’ http://www.amazon.com/Amidst-Latvians-During-Holocaust-Edward/dp/9984993183 – it will enlighten you a bit.

        Doesn’t it seem logical that countries like Latvia and Estonia with only 2 million inhabitants had no say at all about the secret plans and aggressive policy of Grand Villains. Study our history a bit more, please!
        All the war crimes you listed above has to be re-considered and explored much more thoroughly. As it happens you can kick out the Flederborn war crime since it has been proved that the prisoners of war were shot by German forces and the barn was caught by fire due to the strong firing. The report will soon see its daylight and one of these ridiculous charges
        against Latvians will be retorted using strong primary evidences.

        Latvians never wanted to join any of the wars against nobody, they did not want to be neither with Germans nor Soviets. But there was a death sentence for those who avoided the SS-draft so there was no choice.
        You should also know that there were soldiers, who wanted to go ‘ the THIRD way’ – independently – against Nazis and Soviets. Since Britain let them down they were ultimately executed by Germans.

        And remember that Latvians have experienced not only Nazi but much more of Soviet atrocities on their land. Seems like it is very inconvenient to accuse Russians for the Soviet brutality, aggression and holocaust acts against several nations [including Jews] in Europe. Nazis don’t seem so inhuman once you find out what Soviets did under Stalin and afterwards.

        I wish there was a bit more justice in this world!

  9. generalpatton says:

    Mr Citino

    What do you think of the comment that Chief prosecutor and attorney general Sir Hartley Shawcross of the Nuremberg trails said before he died in 2003 at the age of 101 and I quote:” Step by step I have arrived at the conviction that the aims of Communism in Europe are sinister and fatal. At the Nuremburg trails I together with my Russian colleague condemned Nazi aggression and terror. I believe now Hitler and the German people did no want war. But we Britain declared war on Germant intent on destroying it in accordance with out principle of balance of power and we were encouraged by American jews around Roosevelt. We ignored Hitler’s pleading not to enter into war. Now we are forced to realize that Hitler was right.. I feel ashamed and humiliated to see that the aims we accused Hitler of are being relentless pursued now only under a differant label.”

    • Old Trooper says:

      Read your history man.

      Hitler wanted war; he invaded Poland in 1939.

      Britain declared war on Germany to honour it’s treaty with France and Poland, after the German invasion of Poland.

      Quite sensibly Hitler didnt want a war with the USA in 1941, he was already committed to a two front war in Europe when he invaded Russia.

      “But we Britain declared war on Germant intent on destroying it in accordance with out principle of balance of power”….
      Europe had a very real fear of yet another war with a re-armed and militarised Germany; hardly surprising after 1870 and 1914; and then Hitlers insistence on anexxing Austria (which had never been a part of Germany), the Czech Sudentland, then Czechoslovakia itself, and of course Poland.
      And you believe that Germany never wanted War!!!!

      “The American jews around Roosevelt”….here we go again, the old anti-semite threat to “world peace”.

      • glenn horlacher says:

        So, why exactly did France (The real instigator of WW II) and Britain only declare war against Germany for the invasion of Poland, letting the USSR off the hook? The war crimes of the allies (Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, etc) equaled or surpassed those of Germany. Where’s your indictment of Eisenhower and Churchill? What about Chuck Yeager, who strafed German farmers and their family’s? Curtis Lemay remarked that the allies “had better win the war, or I’ll be tried as a war criminal”. The stated aim of the war against Germany was to “free Poland”. So why exactly did the “allies” give Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine et al over to the evil and barbaric Soviets? Smedley Butler had it right, war is a racket.

  10. Jacob DeWitt says:

    I don’t think there is anything too insidious about these guys. I just wish they would A. Get better informed B. Just admit that they want to play soldier. Yes, they are dorks. They are huge dorks. They are no different than I was at age 7 when I would dress in my dad’s ‘Nam camo with an old doughboy helmet and run around the woods shooting Nazi’s.
    Second, It is annoying that these people have such reverence for Germany in the World War II. I think the actions of the Wehrmacht were very interesting during this time, but I don’t pick and choose what happened. Anyway, that just seems boring and honestly, lame. It’s all of these aspects that make it such a fascinating period in history, the good and the bad.
    As far as reenacting goes, sometimes it’s fun to be the bad guy. So just admit that you ARE playing the bad guy.

  11. Ed Landser says:

    Mostly uninformed comments here. The article is good, but the writer doesn’t understand the re-enactment movement as well as he should before commenting it. I did “Grossdeutschland” for several years, and as pointed out, someone has to do the “bad guys.” As for the comment that WWII reenactors are “just dorks”, that’s a falsehood. I don’t doubt there are many in it for the “wrong reasons” but there are also many with a genuine interest in history and whom could quote you chapter and verse on German Army courts martial regulations, political history, or tactics. I agree that the war in the East has mostly been whitewashed, especially thanks to soft-soap German war memoirs published in the west, while “we” changed our minds about the West Germans thanks to the Cold War, and the desire to fight the Russians as a common enemy after 1945. So we forgave and forgot far too quickly, and believed the whitewashed histories of Carius, Rudel and turned them into action adventure instead of chronicles of what it was – genocide.

    But it is possible to study the Wehrmacht from a detached, clinical view also. Should we? I’ve never seen a GI reenactor asked to explain the electoral college. It’s not what reenactment is about, and the soldier in the field usually didn’t care about the politics behind it. I think it is important to remember the Holocaust and the mass genocide both sides practiced on the Ostfront, but it shouldn’t be treated with such reverence that we forget all that we do try and know about other aspects of life for the men that fought there.

  12. Lordhoot says:

    Of all the organizations that military history have to offer, from the ancient Assyrians to the Desert Storm, this candidate for Congress chooses a Waffen SS unit. That should say something about the man itself. Me, if I was reenacting, I would like go as Roman centurion or member of the Iron Brigade. I won’t called Waffen SS a “criminal organization” but they reflect ideals of racial hatred. Anyone running for public office shouldn’t be connect remotely with such a thing. As for Robert Byrd, that was an another time, age and person. You might as well condemn every American prior to 1940s for being a racist compared to us today.

    As for wargaming which I played quite often since the days of Army Group South Quad, Tobruk, War of the Ring, Squad Leader and Wellington’s Victory to name a few, Germans were a prefer choice over the Russians during the Cold War era. Nobody want to put a heroic face of our then current enemy on their games. Many western historians back then, took a pro-German centric look at the war along the eastern front so its only logical that Germans lined up the face of wargaming on that sector. And they are the bad guys so bad guys sell more then good guys. Just look at how Star Wars books out there with Darth Vader or the Imperial Stormtroopers on the covers. A lot more then Luke Skywalker and the gang. I don’t think it has anything to do with any sort of love or infatuation with Nazi Germany.

    • whale says:

      And if you are interested in and can find an organization that reenacts the Roman era, than you can dress up like one, perhaps while you prefer 100 AD, this candidate prefers more recent history such as WW2.

      Were SS units part of some of WW2’s most important battles? Yes, then they should be represented by somebody in a proper reenactment.

      Not everybody has the capabilities of learning by reading or rote examination by their teacher, some people learn audibly, some through interaction and tactile learning and if ANYONE learns something about WW2, then the reenactment was a success.

      I personally would never reenact as a German, let alone an SS member, but then again, I would never be a Redcoat or a Confederate soldier either.

      But that doesn’t mean that the people who are willing to reenact in those roles are unfit for public office. Their qualifications as a public servant should be their ACTUAL character, not the fictional one that they play at.


    • jason taylor says:

      You do realize, Lordhood, that Ancient Assyrians made monuments bragging about their atrocities in full view of the public? Why wouldn’t that “say something about the man itself”?

  13. Peter says:

    This is directly relevant to me: I make WW2 tanks (large scale >1/16 radio control) and sell the finished ones online. Because a lot of my tanks are from SS divisions I’ve also attracted a few people who decorate their house with swastikas. Some of the same people seem to be posting here: for instance ‘if Hitler didn’t want war’ then he shouldn’t have damn well invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland! While I agree with one other poster here saying ‘someone has to play the bad guy’ does anyone in this ‘Wiking’ group play the good guy?

  14. Patrick says:

    I grew up in NJ and my father was a history NUT and he would take us to Jockey Hollow to see the revolutionary war encampment and re-anactments of a battle. Men played the British soldiers which were our enemy and there are Civil War re-anactments with Americans playing and representing the confederate army with wanted to keep to the souther way of life with slavery and they could have possible won that war.

    If asked if I would dress up as a Germany soldier under the command of General “Rommel” to help re- anact D-day, I would first ask if I could be an American soldier storming the beach head but if all those positions were full then I would say YES because I want my children to see how Brave the Allies were. It is my job to sit down with my children and family and discuss history and discuss the meaning of our shared American History.

    If I dress up as German soldier for a re-anactment, I would also want a picture of event. That doesn’t make me a Nazi, a nerd, a geek but I lover of history and a person that wants my children to see first hand why the ally actions in WW2 were amazing. Stop shooting the messenger and be thankful we re-anact so we don’t actually RELIVE that history.


  15. Tim Bowler says:

    HI there

    Just a quick view from the UK on this subject. I don’t want to comment too closely on this particular political candidate but I do want to make a point that I don’t think has been spelt out yet.

    I am in broad agreement with the article. The SS were declared as criminal organisation after the war, and in that sense, they are different from the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.

    Here in the UK, many of our historical sites (from the Neolithic to the 20th C)) are run by a public body called English Heritage. We have lots of histrocial re-enactments, and they take what I think is a sensible view. Yes somebody has to be the bad guys, so dressing up as Germans is fine. But you can’t re-enact as the SS.

    At other places in the UK, other historical re-enactment organisers take different views. I was at the War and Peace Show in southern England last year – which is one of the biggest in Europe – and what I found personally disturbing was that all those who did re-enact as Germans, chose to re-enact as the SS. It was magnificant, but I did feel I’d entered some dystopian world in which the bad guys had won…

    While I accept many do so out of a genuine desire to portay living history, ther are others whose SS re-enactment merges with a rather ugly modern politics.

    It is depressingly easy with some SS re-enactment groups to see a love of all things Waffen SS coming through in a modern political sense – even in their public websites.

    So personally I’d rather not see Waffen SS reenactments – while I am happy to see people dressing up as the Wehrmacht et al. As for politicians as re-enactors – I guess you just have to be careful not to be misunderstood.

  16. Bryan Morgan says:

    So the Roman army was not as brutal as the Waffen SS? Only because the crimes are forgotten. You see, that is the problem here. Because WWII is more recent, many seem to think that its villians are worse. But the truth is that history is full of genocide and national crimes. Would anybody have a problem dressing up as a knight, circa 1300? Probably not. But oh, yeah, those guys went to the Holy Lands and tried to exterminate members of another religion. Not all of them did that, you say. True. But that is the point isn’t it?

    • Lordhoot says:

      Crimes? You talked about Roman crimes and compared them to those of the SS? How uniquely warp!

      • whale says:

        The Roman legions often invaded “barbarian” territory to capture resources such as gold and slaves. Were those “barbarians” living freely in their own land unimportant and thus not worthy of remembrance of their plight from the rapacious Romans?


  17. C.K. Cassavoy says:

    Always a controversy, World War 2 Germany. Personally, as a man who lost family to the Germans – a great uncle in a RCAF Lancaster over France, another in a Stuart tank in Italy serving with the Canadian Armoured Div – I find myself wondering why anyone would want to wear a swastika.

    I understand the need to keep ALL sides of history alive, banning the freedom of someone to read about or view the actual items from history is wrong and against what everyone in North America has fought (is fighting) and died for. But to wear the uniform? The swastika – even a small one?

    To the actual topic here. Anyone who portrays himself as a member of the SS, by choice and freely, is a person who is showing his/her inner feelings. I find myself ill when I see images of Nazi Germany, so I doubt I would ever wear the uniform. A politician who wears one, openly and often, should be denied Office. He is basically spitting on all the Troops who died and were wounded in the War.

    Yes, the Germans and the SS in particular, had the coolest uniforms and weapons. But how did they use these things? Think about that.

    This isn’t a difficult topic, it’s simple. We here in North America don’t parade around in the uniform of the KKK, or reenact the villains of 9/11, do we? I’m pretty sure we’d all feel ill if asked to portray one of the Slime who participated in and/or celebrated 9/11!

    If we did dress as one of those twits, wouldn’t we be spitting on the memory of all those who died, civilians, police and firemen?

    Yes, we have to make a stand on some things. Reenactors have a place, like mentioned before, they bring History to life. But we should be wary of those who make it part of their lives to portray Villains.

    I don’t see anyone out there portraying Manson, the Son of Sam or Ted Bundy.

    It’s the same thing when you put on a uniform of the SS.

    My thoughts…
    C.K. Cassavoy, Cpl., 1 Can Div, Retired

  18. Marsh says:

    I’m a reenactor. I’ve done WWI, WWII and Roman. It doesn’t matter the time period, Americans are, for the most part, quite ill-informed about history. Yes, I’ve done a German impression–many do it because it’s HARD to do right. And BTW, I’ve also done Soviet… I can tell you from doing the “other side” or even doing Soviet (our “faithful” ally), it gives you a new appreciation for how things were. And ya know what, you sure aren’t going to learn about what it felt like to wear a wool unifom in hot weather, while carrying your gear and worrying about “taking a hill.”

    As to Rich Iott picking his unit, that’s hooey because you join a group because of the guys in it, not because you are into that unit (well, for the most part).. It’s a hobby, no worse than any other. All this is an ignorant mob mentality from people who nothign about the reenacting hobby.

    Why is it that WWII Magazine has such an anti-German bent these days? I have subscribed on and off for years and guess what, I liked it WAY better back in the early 90’s.

    Anyway, if you don’t like my hobby, so what! Who are YOU to criticize it? Look there arm-chair historian, you don’t criticize us for what we do while you set there and bloviate on “how it was.” Go back to watching American Idol and leave us alone.

    • glenn horlacher says:

      As a Soviet, did you reenact raping 8 year old girls?

      • SW Hall says:

        Nice cheap shot, so contributes to the disscussion…

        This is supposed to be about the controversy over a historian saying negative things about a political candidate that has a personal history of reenacting and whether it is valid to extrapolate anything from his choice to do a Nazi impression.

        I was a state legislature candidate and my reenacting was not an issue, all kinds of other falsehoods and inuendo were imployed but nothing about my reenacting.

        I started as a Conferderate, “galvanized” as a Federal, did a Volksgrenadier impression, fixed heavy as a Soviet (I fancy it because I fought them in the “Cold War” and learned Russian) and also do an American WWII impression. I am also into vehicles and weapons of WWII of all sides.

        ITS A HOBBY! Not my raison d’etre. If you want to make a shallow determination of my character because of my or any other reenactors hobby then it is you who is shallow.

        As far as I am concerned the man got shafted by the media and political left that has an unhealthy philosophical association with some of the most corrupt and brutal politcal movements in the history of mankind…..and do not condemn it like the reenactor did.

  19. Jonathan B says:

    I think there’s another perspective that’s lost, both in the wargaming and the re-enacting angles, where Germany is concerned. Yes, there are fringe elements in both who are neo-Nazis. But they’re the exception, rather than the rule, even among those wearing a German uniform.

    One huge reason that Germany is so popular in wargaming, and quite possibly this carries over to re-enactors, is that they quite simply had some of the coolest toys. They had some of the best and most innovative tanks, guns, planes, and other equipment, and some of the snazziest uniforms aesthetically. For gaming, there’s also the ‘I win’ factor. It’s why you can walk into a gaming tournament and see more Tiger II tanks on half the tables than Germany ever produced. ;)

    It’s a hot button issue, and I get that. I think it’s a mistake, though, to blithely think you can judge the man’s intentions by which side he happens to dress up as for a living history event. Lordhoot above mentioned going as a Roman Centurion. I would have no problem with that. Yet, if we’re going to apply this standard, let’s honestly consider how many millions were slaughtered or enslaved by the Romans. How many died in the coliseum for amusement of Roman crowds, torn apart by hungry animals? How about Nero using Christians as living torches, burning them alive to light his parties? Not to mention this is the army whose idea of discipline was that if a unit disgraced itself you lined it up and executed every tenth man (the origin of the term decimate). Do we assume that Lordhoot glorifies the slaughters of innocents because he would dress up as a Centurion? Of course not.

    To Lordhoot specifically, I find it odd that you can vilify this candidate for dressing up in a living history uniform, while at the same time giving a pass to Byrd for *being* a clansman. Not only a clansman but a high ranking one who recruited other men into the white supremacist cause. Now, I believe I heard that he repented of that later in life, and I’m quite willing to forgive him. But the blatant attempts made to whitewash and excuse his history instead of acknowledging it just to avoid making the Democrats look bad for having him as one of their highest ranking members is disturbing.

    To the article writer, I think you were so anxious to look sensitive to the issue that you jumped to conclusions without sufficient evidence to impugn the intentions of a man you don’t know.

    • Lordhoot says:

      You made some valid points. Simple fact is, time changes everything. Most Americans prior to World War II thought about race relationship as Robert Byrd did. It is not hard to say that majority of white Americans were utterly racist by our standards today. It is however, unfair to judge people and society of yesterday by our standards today. That is because someday, we who judge now, maybe judge by generations after us and they will say, we were still racist, intolerance and selfish people. I separate the line between a Roman Centurion and a SS. Roman Centurion fought his wars along the standards of its days. Yes, warfare was brutal, mean, nasty and killing, enslaving and nailing people the to cross was all bad…by our standard today. Not by the standards back then. Roman society was a brutal one but will people say 100 years from now about the violence in NFL or professional boxing, WWF and MMA? Probably the same thing that you were saying about the Romans. But what the SS did in Russia, the camps and all that, isn’t a standard for any time or for any society. Even Genghis Khan had a military purpose for slaughter. SS had none!

      • whale says:

        No, what the holocaust was about was a POLITICAL purpose, which the military is entrusted to perform if they can. Roman Senators and Generals sent out their legions into the boonies to make money for themselves and glory for Rome. How is greed any better of a purpose to slaughter innocents?

        I understand distaste and hatred for the NAZI’s and the SS, but this guy ISN’T a NAZI and he ISN’T an SS member, he is a reenactor.


  20. Marsh says:

    I forgot to add, when doing Roman, I’ve actually had idiots come up and get offended about me doing Roman saying something REALLY DUMB like: “Because them’s is the ones whut killed JESUS.” and yes, I’ve heard idiots say just that. But hey, the Romans were EVYIL, they killed people, lots of people. It’s just that it happened about 2000 years ago.

    And BTW, as a reenactor, I try to do events where there IS NO PUBLIC present because most Americans just don’t like History, to them, it’s “icky” and “boring.” Don’t say it isn’t so, because it is.

  21. Dave Kinscherf says:

    Well said Marsh!!! As a re-enactor for more than 20 years I can tell you that 50% of choosing a “side’ or a unit is the “guys in it”.I startetd out as a CW Union re-enactor in CO.H 4th US Regular Infantry Rgt.”Sykes Regulars” because I thought the people in it were some of the most welcoming,friendly and fun men and women I had ever met.All were history fanatics,like me and some were so smart.They were “family inclusive” with wife,kids etc around to share the experience and live in the 19th century for a weekend,.The manners and warmth of those years is nice to live in once in a while.The men and older boys maintained a strictly authentic Soldiers,”military camp” where we lived with only what we could carry on our backs and all in the strict “Regular Army” style. Everything had to be pre-1865 to be used,even our “drawers”and socks.It gave us a chance ,at least for a few hours ,to live , talk ,eat,march,,and fight like the original men did.During the battle and after ,we presented to the spectators “Living History” as they toured the camps .The civilians showed glimpses of family life in 1860’s America. For a history buff it is the greatest,even when it rains and gets cold (one of my best memories is of a “tactical”non-spectator weekend in the snow).You get at least a little taste of life for a soldier in the Civil War But ,after a few great years, the group split up and I joined a Confederate unit,:,CO.A,7th Tennessee Infantry Rgt.. Why Confederate? Because I had made more fantastic ,life long pards who were forming the unit. No politics ,just another chance to explore civil war history with some like minded friends and get a chance to see the War Between the States from the “other side of the hill”……Are there some people involved in re-enacting who I wish were not ,? Yes,but they are only a small number,though very loud and obnoxious. Why would anybody want to portray a Nazi soldier ,especially a Waffen SS one ? Well ,they did have real cool uniforms and wore their battle decorations in the field.Also ,you have some buddies in the group.

  22. John says:

    “Of all the organizations that military history have to offer, from the ancient Assyrians to the Desert Storm, this candidate for Congress chooses a Waffen SS unit. That should say something about the man itself. ”

    I don’t know the guy, don’t live in his district and don’t re-enact WW2 — but if you look at his website he’s been re-enacting for years and there are pictures of him doing many periods including ACW (Union), WWI (US) and WW2 (US Airborne). He claims he only joined the SS Wiking unit because his son (shown in pictures re-enacting since he was a child) wanted to try it out, did it for a few years and dropped it. Unless there’s any other evidence that he has any racist of fascist sympathies, based on his history of re-enacting I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  23. mercedes1407 says:

    I think re-enactments are a great way to show history. There are re-enactments of the Alamo, Jamestown, little bighorn, civil war, revolutionary war etc. Can one find something bad about each one? Sure! Slavery was one of the causes of the civil war so if you were a rebel it is easy to “say” you are racists. If you dress up as a colonist you “exploited” the Native Americans. If you dress up as a member of Washington’s troops, you are a “traitor” to your king. If I fly a Confederate battle flag to celebrate my southern heritage I am a “racist” to some for doing it. If a german soldier fought in France in WW2 but not on the Eastern front is he different from a german soldier that did. What if a german unit was in the east and moved west does that purify him? You can dress up in a yankee unit and still be racist. You can dress up in an American uniform and hate Jews.

  24. Jos. T. says:

    I am not sure which is more disturbing, Citino’s idiocy or Historynet.com’s allowance of Citino to utilize their forums/email for his personal political agenda. Attacking someone for playing a role and labeling everyone in a specific portion of a hobby as supporting criminal activities is as intelligent as someone accusing all Muslims as being terrorists solely on the basis of Islamic extremist activities of 9/11. Historynet.com should NOT be used to push extremist political viewpoints.

    Citino, you stated that you were a war-gamer in your agenda. Due to your radical stance on playing a particular historical role, I am left with two painful suspicions, the first being that you definitely never played ANY German or Soviet roles, and second that anyone you played against was committing a crime for playing such a despicable role within your limited historical scope, with this being evident NOT by my sole opinion but rather upon your own confines of deduction.

    I am curious about the following: Is Tom Cruise a NAZI for acting the role of Stauffenberg? Was James Earl Jones evil since he played the second most evil character in the Star Wars saga? Should myself, or my children be politically black-listed for playing ‘cowboys’ who senselessly slaughtered women and children to gain control of new land, or even the American Indians who slaughtered the women and children of settlers encroaching upon their ancestral lands in what they interpreted as self-defense. Do you feel that I am also tainted and evil simply because I study and am fascinated by the mechanics of both the military history and the process that allowed Hitler to gain dictatorial power in 1933? Something tells me that anyone familiar with just one very specific Santayana quote would receive your article as uneducated and dangerous to mankind’s future. And furthermore, why are you a contributing author of a format that discusses all aspects of history with recognition that history itself is not a single viewpoint but rather a conglomeration of adversarial concepts.

    Citino reminds me most noticeably of another historically inept fool I encountered many years ago when a potential in-law accused me of being a NAZI because he spotted a swastika on the binding of William L. Shirer’s ‘Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’ within one of my bookshelves. Ironically, I was more angry over him being completely, mentally dysfunctional and rude than his actual statement. What infuriated me the most was that he failed to comment on a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ beside Shirer’s masterpiece, labeling me a NAZI solely on the symbol rather than the more provocative book adjacent to it. Does owning a copy of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’ or even ‘Mein Kampf’ make ANYONE a NAZI? I would hope not, and I would further suspect that most serious ETO WWII historians would in fact have a copy of such due to its most inherent value of understanding what Hitler wanted the world to recognize as his true thought process and ideology. Although craftily manipulated and disturbing on many points to many, the work is still important and critical in attempting to conceive some potential inkling of what Hitler would have wished for the world to have recognized in himself. I must wonder what Citino or like minded individuals would label the National Museum of World War II located in New Orleans in that they contain entire replicas and even original Whermacht equipment, uniforms, and other artifacts.

    So in closing, Citino, I seriously doubt that your political attack stands any more sound ground than an equally preposterous attack upon you for playing war-games and in similar fashion labeling you as an unscrupulous member of society for having an interest in history, WWII, or anything other than ONLY the McCarthyism-like aspect of a most tragic war that will most definitely continue to influence our entire world for many generations to come, and in my most ardent hope, will not be allowed to fade into history the harsh lessons that were most horrifically paid for with so much lost pain that MUST require us to revisit it over and over for as long as we shall strive to move forward and achieve betterment for all mankind.

    • glenn horlacher says:

      Hear, hear!

    • Lordhoot says:

      I think you may have missed a point that Mr. Citno was making about reenacting a certain role. If you or I reenacted a German officer of World War II, its cool really, we are just couple of guys having fun although I am not sure how your boss might feel. And that is the point. This fellow is a politician, running for office and no matter what his historical intent are, dressing up like a Nazi is NOT a good thing. And if you follow politics to any degree, you know that public image is everything. Actually, I am surprised that he would do something like that. His opponent can plastered such photos all over, make his life a misery, making him explain why he is NOT a Nazi and this is just dress up. Whole is a bad idea. By the way, did he win???

  25. Olaf (the Netherlands) says:

    I totally agree with your article. But I miss the background information about this division in particular which sheds an even more disturbing light to this story.

    The bigger part of SS division Wiking, 2 of 3 standarte, was made up from volunteers outside Germany. It contained Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Flemish volunteers. Volunteers who after the war were tried for treason, and in most instances were shot!

    Although its very questionable for any democratic representative to re-anact a criminal and undemocratic organisation like the SS, no matter where he or she is from, its even more questionable when that re-anactment is re-anacting traitors to their country!

    And if people think they are not doing anything wrong, why is it that that there is no re-anactment of the Leibstandarte with an even bigger and more interesting war history????

    I guess we all know the answer to that, because its very wrong!

  26. Patrick says:

    YGBSM. Because someone role plays/re-enacts the part of an SS soldier he’s a NAZI?!? So anyone that does the same for the Civil War Confederacy is a racist? When are we going to start trying the re-enactors who dress as “redcoats” for treason as they obviously wish to destroy our Constitution and return us to a monarchy?

    I too was a war gamer. I too knew people who loved to play the Germans, but it never occurred to me that they were Nazi’s or worshipped Adolph Hitler, or dreamed of world domination. What they loved was the equipment and the reputation as some of the toughest fighters in the world. Thinking a Panther is a whole lot “cooler” (and far more deadly) then a Sherman doesn’t mean you are a NAZI, it means you have a brain. Who can look at the shark-like body of a Me-262 and not be impressed… it was one of those airplanes that looked deadly sitting still. And as for reputation, if thinking that man for man the German soldier was one of, if not the best in the world, is evil then renowned author Max Hastings is in trouble.

    What this is is politics, and political correctness. And I know I’ll get slammed for this, but left wing politics. Sure there are some sleazy Republicans running negative ads but for the most part this is a tactic of the left (and before you make up your mind about me, I am a Libertarian… I hate both the major parties). We can’t run on issues because the American people aren’t socialist like we want them to be so we have to attack our opponents personally. “Racist” was the favorite charge of the Left whenever they wanted to silence someone but that has, in the light of Senator Byrd’s time in a white sheet, our fearless leader’s “the police acted stupidly” and other similar “outings” has kind of lost its luster. So now I guess it’s “You’re a NAZI”. Reagan went to a funeral in a cemetery where in some corner SS soldiers were buried and the press cried NAZI! Clinton stood smiling and waving like an idiot in Tiananmen Square, in the same place people fighting for liberty were slaughtered by a communist regime and he was “presidential”.

    In the end Mr. Citino, either complicity or not, gave the left-wing PC smear police just what they wanted… an “expert” who agreed that “re-enacting” was the same as “wanting to be” a NAZI.

  27. gofuyose says:

    This is simply disgusting. That’s right, DISGUSTING. I cannot believe this is even an issue, and here’s why:

    When Hollywood actors portray murderers, pedophiles, rapists, bank robbers, socially unacceptable beings, etc (read all: scum) … they get millions of dollars and praise from the elitist community on how “talented” they are, with nothing but pedestal status. Now, on the exact flip side, we have a Tea Party backed politician who is doing an EXACT replication of the same, except this is for HISTORICAL factor (someone has to play the enemy), not ‘entertainment’ value (mindless drivel), all hell breaks loose. People are all up in arms (no pun intended, because as we all know that liberals hate guns – come to think of it, I should just state “their panties are all in a bunch”) because they are trying to find something about this guy that is bad. So, instead of talking about the important things here (um, issues?) they revert to ad hoc attacks about how much this guy is a Nazi (history lesson: aren’t these the same imbeciles who used this term describing Bush? (it makes me think they have no idea what that word even means anymore – if anything, they are closer related than anyone (if you disagree, look into gun registration/revocation, free speech, socialized economic and political issues …))).

    The writer of this piece denied to realize the fact that people do not want to “dress up and play SS on the weekends” – they want to be a part of history, and relive battles won by the United States to stop tyranny in its tracks. People do it for the Civil War (we need South soldiers you know), people do it in Hollywood (except they do it for money and fame (douchers)), and people do it for WW1 and WW2. It’s a fact of life, and no one who partakes in it is a Nazi. Get over yourself.

    Your little wargaming board games is somehow a different story? Maybe you’re just an exception to this ridiculous rule…

    The best part of this all is how I will probably be called a Nazi; it just proves my point so thank you in advance for this (not the name calling, the whole proving my point thing – stay focused here).

    So let’s recap: Hollywood actor does it = overwhelming talent, millions of dollars, and praise. Tea Party backed politician does it = *GASP*NAZI!!!!!

    The answer is clear and it screams double standard. It’s sickening to know that this is even an issue. Absolutely sickening.

    /USMC veteran out.

  28. Roger Brandon says:

    Great points from those that point out reenacting as a Roman Legionnaire or a Confederate soldier is also dealing with some nasty aspects of history.

    I don’t participate in reenactments, but I’ve gone to many and really enjoy them, and I don’t want some whiny political correctness lawyers forcing their idea of what’s right and wrong on us. When going to reenactments, afterwards I see Union and Confederate, or American/Canadian/UK and German “soldiers” joined in comradeship- many people are ignorant, thinking these people live this- it’s a hobby people! Are there a few nuts in there? Sure, but then that’s true for everything. Sporting events around the world involve some players and spectators who are violent jerks and there are plenty of other examples.

    Most German, even SS reenactors are purely in it as a hobby and for brief moments getting to live out history and share it with us. But there are plenty of very liberal Hollywood “celebrities” who’ll gladly play the role of some horrible villain and sometimes in a way that actually glorifies that villain. Or look at many of the video games, something like Grand Theft Auto, that allows kids to go around and kill innocent people, etc. It just amazes me that the politically correct far left are so worked up about a guy who spent very little time involved in historical reenactments, but turn a blind eye to truly disturbing things. Just as has been pointed out here, KKK Byrd actually was a high ranking member in an organization that was no better than SS Viking, and we’ll never know what horrible things he may have actually done back then, but the left thought he was great. That just shows amazing hypocrisy from these people.

  29. gofuyose says:

    Someone has to say it –

    Jos. T.

    Excellent post.

  30. Craig Finley says:

    I served in the Army for 11 years-I spent three at the largest NATO command in Germany at Heidelberg. I supervised both German and American Military Police in a multi-national headquarters. Few German soldiers know any history of World War II. I told my German Feldjagers (MPs) to be proud of who they are. Yes, the Nazi regime was evil and deserved to be defeated-but that doesn’t mean soldiers of both the Wermacht and Waffen SS did not perform superbly and bravely in combat. That’s why veterans of both the allied and German armies regularly get together-The Waffen SS employed differant leadership techniques which led to a very tight bond between its members-whether a private, nco or officer. You can always learn positive things-from leadership to tactics-about all armys and combat formations. I gave my Germans their pride back-and taught them soldiering is a profession-not just a job, as many in the German armed forces these days think it is. I think you have to have been a soldier to understand why people are in re enactment groups. And I support them 100%-course, that’s just my opinion. Respectfully, Craig

  31. Therion says:

    I find it amusing how Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe aren’t considered criminal organizations. Both were instrumental in German war of aggression and both murdered soldiers who were defending their homeland.
    Additionally, Luftwaffe commited mass murder of defenceless civilians on numerous occassions – Guernica, Wielu?, Warsaw, Rotterdam, strafing columns of refugees, etc.

    I wonder how butthurt media would be if they would learn that some politician plays GTA.

  32. Guy Nasuti says:

    I love history and have been studying the Second World War for a long time now. As a younger man, I admit to being fascinated by the SS. Cool uniforms, even cooler weapons. Having grown up a bit and studied the SS and the crimes they committed, especially on the Eastern Front and in the camps, I come away with a different feeling. Were they tough in combat? Sure. But their fanatical bent is ultimately what doomed many of them in the end.

    I personally don’t care for re-enacting one way or the other. And before all the re-enactors jump on me, let me reiterate that these are my personal feelings. I have nothing against it at all. “Living History” as a teaching tool or as a fraternal practice is fine, and I do understand that part of it. But how can one ever get across the agony, deprivation, lonely, tired, hungry, wet, cold, hot, and miserable feelings that soldiers experience in a time of war? How can one know terror and instant fear and random acts of heroics if they aren’t being shot at for real, with all the blood and guts and everything else that most people with even a general interest in military history love to read about? Also, should the flags and accoutrements of defeated nations be displayed so openly and freely? Where I live, I usually see more Confederate flags on the back of pick-up trucks than I do of Old Glory. Where does one draw the line?

    I have several friends that are re-enactor’s. One is a Union soldier, one does French and Indian War, and one is a member of the Grossdeutschland. They’re all good guys with an avid interest in history, so why take them to task for something that they enjoy as a hobby? The French and Indian War guy doesn’t pine for colonialism or fur-trading anymore than the Grossdeutschland guy spouts off Nazi propaganda. He’s aware of the history behind the German military and was one of the first to even mention to me that the Wehrmacht was involved alongside the SS in many crimes on the Eastern Front.

    Of course you’re going to have your yahoo’s, cowboys, and idiots in every organization. That is inevitable. I’ll never forget a guy I met in full 101st Band of Brothers gear that walked around like he had just assaulted Brecourt Manor all by himself. I’d rarely seen arrogance in someone that had never actually served a day in the military or ever heard a shot fired in anger before.

    People are entitled to their beliefs in this country. Should a man running for any type of political office be dressing up in the uniform of an SS officer? I would venture a guess and say “NO!” Because people’s perceptions of a person always play a huge part in how they will vote. It’s just common sense. In this day and age, if you’re going to run for anything, make sure you dress smart, with as many American flags covering you as is humanly possible.

  33. WarVet says:

    I think JosT should be writing for them instead of this guy. At least he makes sense.

    I love world war 2 and german history and the German vehicles are cool but I am no Nazi.

    Reenactors compared to KKK? Are you crazy? Does he think we are all Nazis for playing Castle Wolfenstein back in the 1990s???

  34. Terence Zuber says:

    I am a retired US Army infantry officer and lived in Germany for 25 years. Citino’s argument that the German armed forces in toto, SS, Wehrmacht and presumably Luftwaffe and Navy, were directly involved in a war of extermination in Russia does not stand up to serious analysis. The nasty German Landser (grunts) took over a million Russians POW in 1941 alone, more later. According to Citino, the Germans should have murdered them outright. Citino should get a “shiver up his spine” every time he sees a RAF or US Air Force reenactor: think Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima. The inhabitiant of those cities weren’t even combatants, but women, children and the elderly. Unlike Citino, I have actually spoken with dozens, probably hundreds of actual German East Front veterans, and the stories they told me of combat there left little opportiuinty, interest, time or energy for killing civilians

    • Lordhoot says:

      How interesting. I talked to a Wehrmacht officer once who spend a year on the Ostfront, nice elderly gentlman of 82 years, vacationing in Hawaii. He admitted with great regret that the German regular army were heavily involved in mass massacres. He thought at times, it was totally crazy to pulled troops out of the line, to round up Jews to be murdered. He never said if he was involved but he was a heartly man at 82 so I took him up Diamond Head as promise. More good talk came along way…..nasty war in the Russian Front.

  35. NimitsTexan says:

    That this is has become an issue at all is ridiculous. In reference to the candidate himself, as others point out, he has spent a majority of his reenacting career as representing American units (Civil War, WWI, and WWII). If he is a Nazi, he is a strange one that, by the same criteria with which he is criticized, evidently also desires to free black slaves and kill Hitler.

    Taking a larger view, it is self-evident that SOMEONE has to play the bad guys, and considering that SS formations were some of the most effective and well known bad guys (and admittedly had the coolest toys), it just as obvious that someone has to play the them in reenactments, just as someone has to play the English in the Revolution, the Confederates in the Civil War, etc. Otherwise we end up with historically meaningless events, such as the “Red v Blue” 2005 Trafalgar event.

  36. Michael Dorosh says:

    Terence Zuber is completely wrong with regards to Wehrmacht (that is to say, Heer and Luftwaffe) complicity in genocide in the east. There are too many photos of German soldiers grinning beside hanging “partisans” to hide it. They simply camouflaged their doings with language. They may have taken soldiers prisoner, but they were ordered to execute commissars, and those prisoners rarely survived either the trip back through the custody chain to the POW camps, or their life in the POW camps. This is all well documented, as is the direct assistance they gave to the einsatzgruppen. Look at the Transfer Battalions and the use of “partisan hunts” for combat training on their way to their combat deployments, for example. It was all masterfully camouflaged. Post-war biographies and divisional histories in English by fellows like J.J. Fedorowicz further mask the truth.

  37. Marsh says:

    @Olaf: What you miss is that:
    A: In America we are actually FREE to do what we want and say.
    B: Histories are written by the vicotrs and perhaps these men were shot for somethign dumb like Political Correctness. You wern’t there, you don’t know.

    Anyway, you don’t get to judge me or my fellow reenactors. Isn’t your nation one of the oens who bestowed a Nobel Peace Prize on Barrack Obama for… well no one actually knows other than they were trying to slap George Bush in the face. What BS. Anyway, again, don’t YOU worry about what WE do. Don’t judge us. I bet you think Robert Byrd was a good man.

    @Therion: Were you there? EVERY SINGLE ARMY IN HISTORY BAR NONE has comitted atrocities or been blamed for them. EVERYONE.

    Frak! I am tired of political correctness and the left-wing, neo-Bolshevik agenda. History is histry and as a reenactor, I look for the truth, not what I wish it to be. We portray it, warts and all.

    @Michael Dorosh: Guess what, in war, you are allowe dot shoot spies and those who take up arms in civilian clothing. I disagree with you whole-heartedly. Does this make Americaqns in Vietnam ALL war criminals? I forget where I know you from, but I do. Wern’t you a German reenactor at least at one time? Your name set off an alarm and it wasn’t a good one.

    • Lordhoot says:

      Frak!! I like that. Too much Battlestar Galactica for me too.

      I think the entire discussion is not over reenacting is good or bad but who should do it?? I think for a man running for Congress, dressing up as a SS man is bad idea and send a bad message. You or I,,,,no one cares.

      Back in the ancient days, victors wrote the history. But during the past 300 years….have you seen how many books were written by Confederate veterans on publication? You think the South won the war. Publication of German side of World War II is huge. Japanese side could use more books but they got translation problem. Victors no longer only write the history. Its a mass hysteria of writing going on for a long time.

      • whale says:

        This guy did reenacting with multiple units and quit the Waffen SS one several years before he ran for office.


    • Ed Landser says:

      Marsh, don’t you have a for-profit website devoted to re-enacting? If you want to talk about raising flags, now would be a good time for some full disclosure on your part. How many business dealings do you have that would be negatively impacted by altered public perception of German re-enacting?

      I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Just because some politico dresses up as a Nazi, doesn’t mean you can’t get your kicks parading around in a wool uniform, if that’s how you live out your fantasies. But don’t pretend you’re not here to protect your business.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      Marsh, I don’t know what you mean to imply by your comments other than you may have a poor memory and a poorer understanding of history. You may know me from the website I briefly hosted devoted to the study of the German military in the Second World War, or you may have been a classmate at University when I got my degree in history. I do have some experience in reeanactment, but I would never list that among my bonafides in a serious historical discussion. Better you should look at some of the contemporary literature on the subject of the Wehrmacht’s complicity in war crimes to better inform yourself before you start waving those flags, or claiming that the atrocities the German military are known to have committed – wholesale – were in any way justified. I will agree with anyone who says the study of the Germans in the Second World War is not a matter of black and whites but of multiple shades of grey, but would recommend that you should be equally willing to adopt that same approach. The Commando Order, for example, was not really anything to be confused about. To their credit, many commanders disregarded it or interpreted it differently from its original intent. So it probably was with other criminal directives such as the Commissar directive, etc. But we still know that the atrocities happened when commanders chose to obey criminal orders.

      Why you would sully the memory of the honorable service of hundreds of thousands of American servicemen in Vietnam is beyond me, frankly. I’d recommend a little less emotion when you post, as it doesn’t do the topic any great justice.

  38. Marsh says:

    Whoops, sorry for typos. I tend to have them when I get worked up or into something. Life is horrible.

  39. Wade Krawczyk says:

    I find it all fascinating a tad “politically correct” that this guy should be brought to task over his participation in such a reenactor group. I mean, it is not like he is hurting anyone, and history is history, like it or not…..it happened, and not everyone subscribes to the tainted popularist view of the Geman soldier’s paticipation in WW2. Not every German soldier, Wiking Division, Waffen SS or otherwise was on a “holy crusade” when they stepped nto the battlefield.

    As a military collector and researcher of well over 30 years (I might add I no longer collect WW2) I have seen for example the paybooks of many soldiers who simply because of their specialist or technical qualifications were transferred to the Waffen SS, with no consultation or objection. One felllow’s paybook showed he was a conscript in the NAVY who was transferred as a radio operator. Was HE on some quest to eradicate and murder? I think not.

    I might also add that many reenactors are not only excited by the prospect of some excitement, but are also far more knowledgable about the period and it’s consiquences than many of those undoubtably doing the jumping up and down. You have to DIG to find out the truth, and the usual popularist history books or movies that shape general opinion can barely scrape the surface to expose the truth. At least these people take the time to examine history in some detail.

    I wonder if the “politically correct” who gasp and posture over this would consider banning Russian reenactors also? After all, it was Soviet troops that broke down the door of my Father’s home in 1940 and gave the family just 30 minutes to gather what they could carry, put them in cattle trucks and deported them to Uzbekistan……not the Nazis. Perhaps we should ban people dressing as “Heros of the Soviet Union”?

    No, it is the same old story……people act horrified because they THINK that is what they need to do, not because they understand the situation and not because it is doing genuine harm to anyone. As if there are not enough serious issues to be tackled in America, people think it’s sensible to spend time on this? They understand little about history or priorities.

  40. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    Mr. Zuber, as someone who claims to be a historian, should check his sources. Being a veteran and living in Germany for 25 years does not bestow expertise. Neither does talking to veterans provide a sole basis for broad historical analysis. Prof. Citino has not said, and I don’t believe any historian of the period would say, that every one of the millions of German soldiers who fought on the eastern front committed war crimes. At the same time, historians have long since proven that the Wehrmacht was thoroughly involved in the Nazis’ war of annihilation in the east, on many levels. The Germans’ own semi-official history, _Germany and the Second World War_, produced by the Defense Ministry’s Military History Research Institute in Potsdam, says as much. Mr. Zuber’s argument simply helps to extend the life of a myth that former German generals created after the war, that the army and even the Waffen-SS were innocent dupes of the nasty Nazis. It’s bunk.

    Anyone who puts on a Wehrmacht or SS uniform ought to know the full history of those institutions, out of intellectual honesty if nothing else. It’s one thing to admire the Germans’ military prowess. But knowing what they fought for — and knowing that most of *them* knew, because they were told, over and over again — I could not wear their uniform. And I question the judgment of a politician who would.

  41. Terence Zuber says:

    Michael Dorosh and Citino argue, without any real proof, that the average German soldier routinely committed atrocities. They do not understand that the vast mass of the German army in the East was far too busy fighting vastly outnumbered against the Red Army to indulge in massacres. Dorosh can only cite the execution of partisans. Upwards of 200 German divisions were deployed in the East. Police and rear-area security battalions fought partisans (who were themselves no angels), combat divisions almost never. The fate of Russian POWs who had been sent to the rear can hardly be laid at the feet of the front-line troops. On the other hand, RAF bomber crews had a sick joke to the effect that their aiming point was the town’s cathedral.

  42. Therion says:

    @Marsh: So, if someone would break into your house and would kill your family, it would be perfectly okay and totally non-criminal because someone else also did it.

    During Invasion of Poland alone, both Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht committed many disgusting crimes including illegal crossing of borders, thousands of attacks on servicemen often ending with murder, mass destruction of government property, armed robberies, thievery, mass destruction of private property, mass murder of random people, mass kidnappings, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s ironic that you’re criticizing political propaganda despite that it’s hard to be more politically correct than to pretend that German armed forces weren’t criminal.

    Since apparently not being there automatically means that no crime or evil was done, here are some pictures for you:

    Destruction of private property and mass murder of civilians in Wielu? and Warsaw. Would you be happy one of these apartments would be yours? Would you be happy if someone would drop bombs on your house? Would you be happy if your family would get killed by bombs dropped by the non-criminal Luftwaffe?

    Destruction of government property. It was bought from people’s taxes, god damnit.

    Destruction of historical monuments.


    And here are German Heroes Bravely Fighting Against the Bolshevik Menace:

    @Terence Zuber: I’m pretty sure that Eastern Front wasn’t within the borders of Germany. What were these “innocent” German soldiers doing there?

  43. Michael Dorosh says:

    Zuber still isn’t “getting it”. The word “partisan” itself was camouflage to hide the massacre of civilians. He’s bought into the whitewash, which began in 1945 because the new enemy – the Soviet Union – was on the horizon, and the Germans were suddenly allies in the Cold War.

    • whale says:

      You mean the camouflage like the Soviets blaming the Germans for mass executions that they themselves committed?


      • Michael Dorosh says:

        No, but I’m not going to go back into a discussion weeks later to satisfy someone who came along and spammed this comments section with an en masse reply drop of two dozen drive by messages.

  44. Michael Dorosh says:

    Geoffrey Megargee – good points, but as far as admiring the Germans for their “combat prowess”, I’d go so far as to say that they actually had very little. After Kasserine Pass, they never managed to beat the Americans in a major battle, never beat the Soviets in a major battle after Stalingrad, and never beat the British or Canadians in a major battle after El Alamein. Tactically, they were usually outclassed, and their defensive doctrine was unsound and wasteful, reliant on costly counterattacks that even the best of their field commanders knew were doomed to failure. They relied on technical superiority as a crutch and paid the price in heavy casualties and operational defeat after operational defeat. In short: the German Army simply wasn’t that good, particularly from late 1942 to the end of the war. They had little combat prowess to brag about, certainly by 1944. They had no idea how to do a TOT barrage, co-ordinate large volumes of artillery fire the way the British, Americans or Soviets could, and pretty much got their teeth smashed in at the battalion, regimental and divisional level wherever they fought. Their army was a mass of underage conscripts, leavened with Russian “volunteers”, under-motorized, and in many cases poorly equipped.

    Yet the myths – perpetuated by lurid post-war fantasy-histories – go on. The Germans were not really, really good; they had the opportunity to bump up against really, really bad enemies for the first couple of years of the war. Once everyone else was up to speed, the Germans got their clocks cleaned on a regular basis.

  45. Patrick Hays says:

    I need to start this out by saying that I am and will always be a student of Dr Citino! I know his scholarship to be as fine as any historian out there! His knowledge of the Germay Army during both the Wiemer and the Third Riech is outstanding. I will readily admitt I do not know his politics, but I really don’t care. I have never felt that any of his lectures has an axe grind, in fact he seems to avoid indepth talks about the poltical aspects of any period of German Military history. Anyone who does reenactments does not take this lightly, the research and expense involved does not make me beleive that choosing a group something of a whim. Unless their is a group that rents equipment for all these groups. Hitler’s SS, yes Hitler’s, was created to protect HItler and then expaned to elimanate those who oppsesed Hitler, They ran the concentration and the death camps, average Germans feared them. The Wehrmacht was up to its neck in they extermantion of Hitlers miltiary and racial enemies. This is true of the last two or three years of the war when the young who had spent most of their lives listening to the Nazi propaganda about being superhumans and the need to kill the jews, russians, and anyone else deemed unworthy to live aand they did their best. Why in the blip do you think there were twelve year boys fighting in Berlin when there was no hope!!
    One has to remember that in the time of the Romans, if you lost a war, you either died, fled into hiding or became a slave!! This was true of all the ancients and while this does not make it right, everyone did it!
    As a southerner I am proud of the heritage that comes with and do not look with disdand at the average Johnny Reb. He was not just fighting for slavery, but for a country and the belief system that went with it. He was not lining northern and southern civilians up agianst the wall and shooting them, Yes, Andersonville did exist, things their were horrible and only became worse after Grant stop prisoner exchanges(My great-great-great-great-grandfathers youngest son died their-7th Tenn(US) cavalry-dismounted a believe). the SS are on a level of evil that is matched by the NKVD-KGB and no one else. They do not deserve to be honored and since they did not invent, create or fight any great battles should not be reenacted!!

  46. John Poirier, Esq says:

    In a Fall political campaign where the Democrat Party is widely expected to get a well deserved drubbing at the polls, a desperate Democrat Pol found an excuse to put the word “nazi” and his Republican opponent’s name in the same sentence. That’s the alpha and omega of this story–just a sleazy smear campaign.

    Mr. Citino embarasses himself by admitting he didn’t bother to do his homework before shooting his mouth off. He went with the premise offered by the left wing journalist who contacted him, e.g., that the Republican re-enactor ONLY did SS re-enactments. His slam on the Republican was premised on the idea that a guy who ONLY did SS re-enactments sent a “shiver up his spine”.

    The fact that said candidate has done many more re-enactments as a Union Civil War soldier and WWI Doughboy was conveniently ignored by the left wing smear machine. But knowing this now, its much harder to paint the candidate with the “closet nazi” smear brush, isn’t it? Mr. Citino fails to update his views in light of the full facts. He was used to give a smear some legs, and doesn’t seem to bothered in the least by that fact, or by the fact that he wasn’t told the whole truth about the candidate. This says more about Mr. Citino than the candidate.

    Finally, NOBODY has bothered to mention that with respect to the Eastern Front of WWII, there WERE NO GOOD GUYS! It was a battle between two equally evil ideologies, and both sides committed mass genocide. Communism and Nazism are different branches off the same twisted evil tree. If you are going to condemn SS re-enactors, Mr. Citino, then you are a hypocrite if you don’t also condemn Soviet re-enactors on the same grounds. The Soviets were also waging a campaign to enslave the globe under communism, and by 1945 they succeeded in doing that to all of Eastern Europe. What ought to be of concern to everyone is that today in America we have a major political party that has taken up the evil cause of communism, and that is the Democrat Party.

  47. Terence Zuber says:

    Dorosh still doesn’t get it. Where and when did SS Wiking fight partisans? Deails, please. Dorosh is also concerned about the fate of Soviet Commisars – how touching. “Commisar order” notwithstanding, where and when did any German units, SS Wiking included, actually execute commissars? Be specific. We’re talking war crimes here. Mass punishment of the entire German armed forces on the basis of unsubstaniated slander is inadmissable in serious company.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      How many times do you possibly need to be told that the word “partisan” was camouflage for something more insidious?

  48. Luke Truxal says:

    Check the bottom of page 25 and top of page 26. If you want you can check the footnotes as well. That’s one example.

  49. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    Just one quick reference for Mr. Zuber, since he wants specifics: Felix Roemer, Der Kommissarbefehl. Wehrmacht und NS-Verbrechen an der Ostfront 1941/42. 667pp. Documents the degree of involvement of every single German division on the eastern front.

  50. Therion says:

    @Terence Zuber: All German forces were taking part in German war of aggression that killed millions of people, destroyed unimaginable amounts of both private and government property and violated independence of many nations, and disrupted the normal lives of their inhabitants. It’s enough to condemn them absolutely. Since they have already violated the right of these people to live in peace and right to live in their own sovereign country, counting individual “crimes” is silly. All these silly little crimes were just a result of the big crime of German war of aggression.

  51. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    I would also like to address the argument that there were no good guys on the eastern front, because that point should be taken seriously (even if it comes from someone who thinks the Democrats are embracing Communism!).

    No informed person is going to deny that Stalinism was an evil system. We could go back and forth as to whether it was as bad as, or worse than, Nazism. I tend to think that the latter was worse, but I’ll leave that aside for now.

    The point that is relevant to this discussion is that Germany invaded the Soviet Union with the intention of instituting a program of racially-based conquest and colonization that entailed the direct and indirect killing of millions of people. It is true that the Red Army, and more so the NKVD, committed atrocities. But the point remains: the Germans launched an unprovoked offensive, in the course of which they quite deliberately abused and killed millions of people: shot, starved, frozen, worked to death, tortured, raped, deprived of shelter and sometimes even clothing. The brutality of the Red Army in combat with the Wehrmacht was a reaction to that, plain and simple. And it’s worth pointing out that the Red Army never, not even after four years of dealing with the Nazis, never embarked on a program of genocide in the style of their opponents.

    As for the responsibility of German soldiers: this calls for a detailed and balanced discussion, which allows for distinctions between different kinds of soldiers, and especially different ranks.

    The Wehrmacht’s senior leaders were, almost to a man, in it up to their ears. They knew Hitler’s intentions in detail. They used the SS and police as part of their rear area security plan, knowing full well that their true mission was to kill Jews and other so-called undesirables. They bought into the equation Jew = Communist = partisan. They deliberately neglected Soviet POWs, to the extent that 60 percent of those POWs died in German captivity (a much higher percentage than that of German POWs in Soviet camps, btw). They issued the orders to starve millions of civilians and to send millions more to Germany as forced laborers. At a minimum, anyone from corps commander on up bears full responsibility for what happened.

    Now, what about the other end of the spectrum, the ordinary Landser?As Mr. Zuber has indicated, many of them were indeed too busy to commit war crimes. Millions of them probably never witnessed Jewish men, women, and children being shot into pits; or POWs starving and freezing in open compounds.

    However, one can legitimately ask: what did they know, and what did they think about it? The fact is that word got around. Many soldiers *did* witness crimes. They told their friends. They wrote home about it. Many sent snapshots (we have the orders telling them to stop doing so). They heard, time and again, the orders from above, and the propaganda, explaining why it was necessary to carry out the “harsh but just retribution against the Jewish sub-humans.” They knew what was going on, at least in broad terms.

    What did they think of it? Obviously, in any army of millions, there will be a range of opinion. Some were horrified; some were enthusiastic; many told themselves it was none of their concern, that their role was to shut up and follow orders. Many concentrated on the idea that they were fighting Communism, and that this was an existential conflict — but many of those believed that the Jews were the driving force behind Communism and thus had to be eliminated.

    So, was every Landser a murderer? Obviously not. But collectively, do they bear some responsibility for what happened? Yes, they do. At the very least, those men needed to come to grips with the fact that they fought for a thoroughly evil system, and that many of them did so enthusiastically. The idea that there was a small group of Nazis at the top who somehow duped everyone else, that all soldiers were victims, doesn’t wash.

    Which brings us back to Mr. Iott and his SS uniform. Never mind being a Wehrmacht reenactor, this guy put on the uniform of Nazism’s militarized vanguard. It’s not like being a Red Army reenactor, Mr. Zuber: more like an NKVD reenactor. Imagine the impact this has on people who lost loved ones to men wearing that same uniform. The SS runes are the symbol of Nazism, just as much as the swastika. Mr. Iott says this was all about teaching people about the past, but he demonstrates no sensitivity to that past whatsoever.

    • whale says:

      The Soviets captured millions of German soldiers and sent them to work camps where they died by the thousands. You think that is better than shooting them where they were captured? Remember, Stalin killed many more Russians than Hitler and the German armies ever did.


  52. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    Those who want a concise, but more detailed examination of these issues are welcome to look at my book, War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, and the sources listed therein. There is abundant evidence for everything that Prof. Citino, I, and others have been saying on this blog.

    • glenn horlacher says:

      I was wondering when someone would shill their book here. Disgraceful.

      • Michael Dorosh says:

        Yes, terrible when someone with knowledge of a subject comes along to make informed commentary instead of just hyperventilating Battlestar Galactica quotes into the ether.

  53. Pete says:

    Something most of us growing up in free societies (and even serving in their militaries) often forget: Soldiers serving in armies of despotic regimes rarely have many choices when it comes to following orders, no matter how atrocious or evil. Life in penal units was often short. In some cases the Gestapo/NKVD would even thraten to punish family members at home. So, beofre we judge people with only bad choices, lets walk a mile in their boots

  54. I Like Germany says:

    The uniforms were really impressive. This just cannot be denied.

  55. Waitman Beorn says:

    @ Terence Zuber,

    As someone finishing a soon to be defended PhD on the Wehrmacht’s complicity in murdering civilians, including Jews, I must respectfully disagree completely with your assertions. The Wehrmacht not to mention the Waffen-SS did INDEED participate. I have the documentation thereof.

    Most of your comments seem to be uttered in complete ignorance of the last 20 years of scholarship on this issue.

    The German DID murder commissars and other prisoners in accordance with the Commissar order. Felix Römer’s monumental text on the order painstakingly documents every time a killing was REPORTED in German army records.

    Let’s talk about killings other than partisans. You might refer to my article in Holocaust and Genocide Studies on the 4th PzNaKp which murdered Jews near Stalingrad. You might further wish to refer to the following other texts which also document widespread Wehrmacht killing of civilians and Jews. See below as a START. . .

    Alpert, Nachum. The Destruction of Slonim Jewry: The Story of the Jews of Slonim During the Holocaust. New York: Holocaust Library, 1989.

    Arnold, Klaus Jochen. Die Wehrmacht und die Besatzungspolitik in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowjetunion : Kriegführung und Radikalisierung im “Unternehmen Barbarossa”. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2005.

    Bartov, Omer. “German Soldiers and the Holocaust: Historiography, Research, and Implications.” History & Memory 9, no. 1-2 (1997): 162-88.

    Beorn, Waitman W. “Negotiating Murder: A Panzer Signal Company and the Destruction of the Jews of Peregruznoe, 1942.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 23, no. 2 (2009): 185-213.

    Berkhoff, Karel C. “The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 15, no. 1 (2001): 1-32.

    Böhler, Jochen. Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg : die Wehrmacht in Polen 1939. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2006.

    Browning, Christopher R. “Wehrmacht Reprisal Policy and the Murder of the Male Jews in Serbia.” In Fateful Months : Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution, 39-56. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1991.

    Chiari, Bernhard. Alltag Hinter Der Front : Besatzung, Kollaboration Und Widerstand in Weissrussland 1941-1944, Schriften Des Bundesarchivs ;; 53;. Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1998.

    Förster, Jürgen “The Wehrmacht and the War of Extermination against the Soviet Union.” Yad Vashem Studies 14, (1981): 7-34.

    Gerlach, Christian. Kalkulierte Morde : die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999.

    Hartmann, Christian. “Wie Verbrecherisch War Die Wehrmacht? Zur Beteiligung Von Wehrmachtsangehörigen an Kriegs- Und Ns-Verbrechen.” In Verbrechen der Wehrmacht : Bilanz einer Debatte, edited by Christian

    Hartmann, Johannes Hürter and Ulrike Jureit, 69-79. München: Beck, 2005.

    Heer, Hannes. “Killing Fields: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belorussia, 1941-1942.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 11, no. 1 (1997): 79-101.

    ———. “The Logic of the War of Extermination: The Wehrmacht and the Anti-Partisan War.” In War of Extermination : The German Military in World War Ii, 1941-1944, edited by Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumann, 92-126. New York: Berghahn Books, 2000.

    ———. Tote Zonen : Die Deutsche Wehrmacht an Der Ostfront. 1. Aufl. ed. Hamburg: Hamburger, 1999.

    Heer, Hannes, and Klaus Naumann, eds. Vernichtungskrieg : Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941-1944. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1995.

    Kaiser, Wolf. Täter Im Vernichtungskrieg : Der Überfall Auf Die Sowjetunion Und Der Völkermord an Den Juden. Berlin: Propyläen, 2002.

    Mallmann, Klaus-Michael, and Jürgen Matthäus. Deutsche, Juden, Völkermord : der Holocaust als Geschichte und Gegenwart. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006.

    Mallmann, Klaus-Michael, Wolfram Pyta, and Volker Riess, eds. Deutscher Osten 1939-1945 : der Weltanschauungskrieg in Photos und Texten. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2003.

    Manoschek, Walter. Die Wehrmacht im Rassenkrieg : der Vernichtungskrieg hinter der Front. Wien: Picus, 1996.

    ———. “Serbien Ist Judenfrei”: Militärische Besatzungspolitik Und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42. München: R. Oldenbourg, 1993.

    Mazower, Mark. “Military Violence and National Socialist Values: The
    Wehrmacht in Greece, 1941-1944.” Past and Present no. 134 (1992): 129-58.

    Schulte, Theo J. The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
    Sozialforschung, Hamburger Institut für. The German Army and Genocide : Crimes against War Prisoners, Jews and Other Civilians in the East, 1939-1944. New York: New Press, 1999.

    Streit, Christian. Keine Kameraden : die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941-1945. Neuausg. ed. Bonn: Verlag J.H.W. Dietz Nachf., 1991.

    Vollnhals, Clemens. Wehrmacht, Verbrechen, Widerstand : Vier Beiträge Zum Nationalsozialistischen Weltanschauungskrieg, Berichte Und Studien ;; Nr. 40; Variation: Berichte Und Studien (Dresden, Germany) ;; Nr. 40.

    Dresden: Hannah-Arendt-Institut für Totalitarismusforschung e.V. an der Technischen Universität Dresden, 2003.
    Westermann, Edward B. “Partners in Genocide: The German Police and the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union.” Journal of Strategic Studies 31, no. 5 (2008): 771-96.

  56. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    A point that just occurred to me: SS reenactors, and to some extent Wehrmacht reenactors, are being more true to the history than most of them realize. They are falling for the same bs, demonstrating the same blindness, that young men in Nazi Germany did: the glory of war, the fight against Communism, the unity of purpose, the nationalism, the comradeship, and, for some, the chance to kick ass and not even take names. None of them would initiate a murder under normal circumstances. They aren’t Nazis. But in a war, they could become whatever the Nazis wanted them to be. Hell, this happened to Gunther Grass, of all people, even if he never shot anyone. *That’s* the lesson, folks, that’s your take-home: beware the impressive uniform and the elitist reputation. It can lead you down the wrong path.

    • whale says:

      The ELITIST position is your assumption that someone who portrays a “bad guy” in a reenactment MUST believe in everything that that unit represents.

      He reenacted more than just NAZI’s and last reenacted in the Waffen SS group several years ago and your continued ranting doesn’t make your opinion any more correct. Wearing a Nazi uniform does NOT make someone a Nazi nor does it denote any adherence to the beliefs of those original units.


  57. Hold On Now says:

    I don’t think Zuber said that the Wehrmacht was not complicit in war crimes. I think he simply said that the average German soldier was not complicit. That’s really quite different.

    People are getting angry here and emotionally spouting a bunch of facts about atrocities, which surely did happen. However, the average German soldier was not present at most of those incidents. The average German soldier never heard of them, never saw them, and never participated.

    In fact, the truth of the matter, is that the average German soldier probably went through the entire war without killing anyone, without even seeing a legitimate enemy combatant up close. Many German soldiers died horribly before they even had the opportunity to commit a war crime.

    I think all Zuber is saying, and all the SS Wiking group is saying, is that most soldiers were in fact just working-class individuals with no particular political or racial extremism. They were just ordinary people, and just like if fascism happened today in the United States, millions of people were drafted into the army regardless of their beliefs. They were good people, who mistakenly allowed themselves to be used by a totalitarian regime. Its easy here to sit and condemn them for not resisting more, but its not terribly realistic. Even in the case of SS troops, its not necessarily true that they were anti-Semites who wanted to commit war-crimes. I suspect many of them were no more political than members of the American ‘special forces’. With a war going on, who wouldn’t want to join those units which were advertised as being elite? Just because the Wiking division subsequently committed warcrimes, does not mean that every member participated in or even condoned those crimes.

    • Old Trooper says:

      The SS, either Waffen SS or in it’s other forms, was the direct offspring and tool of the Nazi state, with a mandated racial hatred, and actively practised unrestrained barbarity including genocide both on and off the battlefield.

      SS members recruted even later in the war, were schooled in the Nazi SS philosophy as a part of their basic training, just as the Russians were with the communist philosophy.

      The SS was declared “a criminal organisation” at the end of the war based on it’s own documented history.

      And some of you wonder why some of us, have a problem with individuals today reenacting/commemorating such an organisation; the justification being that their uniforms and weapons “were cool”.

      Some of you obviously don’t realise that there are still people alive with tattoed numbers on their writs or arms.
      Others who are their children.

      Try reenacting the SS in modern day Germany or any of those countries occupied during WW2.

  58. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    @ Hold On Now — Well, here’s what Zuber wrote in his first post: “Citino’s argument that the German armed forces in toto, SS, Wehrmacht and presumably Luftwaffe and Navy, were directly involved in a war of extermination in Russia does not stand up to serious analysis.”

    I think the historical profession has established pretty clearly that this statement is incorrect, although the meaning of “in toto” needs to be clarified: is he talking about all individual service members, or about each of the services that made up the Wehrmacht? The sentence structure seems to indicate the latter. If that’s the case, it’s wrong.

    To some extent the two sides are talking past one another. Prof. Citino is not saying that all soldiers were murderers, and Zuber is not saying there were no crimes. I will also admit that the notion of resistance is a very difficult one. In the absence of a spontaneous mass revolt — which is simply not realistic — any resistance by anyone in the lower ranks of the army was a suicide mission (although a few brave souls did undertake it anyway). I’m not expecting that. I also don’t expect soldiers to be choir boys. War is ghastly, it sparks violent emotion, and often people make it even ghastlier than it has to be.

    There are some facts, however, that need to be accounted for:

    – the Wehrmacht *did* commit horrible crimes, above and beyond what happens in combat. It was, as an institution, thoroughly bound up with National Socialism. The Wehrmacht fought for an evil cause.

    – obviously, some percentage of ordinary soldiers took part in those crimes, many more knew of them, and *all* of them had heard the orders and the propaganda about how they were to behave in the USSR.

    Somehow, veterans had to come to grips with those facts, even if they themselves and their comrades never did anything wrong. Some of them have accepted the responsibility; I’ve met some of them. Others follow many of the same lines of argument that we’ve seen here: “I never saw it, and I don’t believe it happened.”

    Likewise, reenactors have to come to grip with those same facts. Moreover, they have an option that the Landser never had: they can quit. If they don’t, they are going to face the question: how can you not know what the Wehrmacht and the SS did, and if you do, how can you wear that uniform?

    Maybe I’m being too harsh. If there are reenactors out there who really get it, who really understand the situation in all its complexity, and want to educate the public and themselves, go for it. But don’t tell me the crimes never happened, or that they were justified somehow. Because that’s just wrong.

    • whale says:

      More red herring arguments. NOBODY has claimed that atrocities did not happen and NOBODY said that they were justified. What is COMPLETELY false is your statement that a reenactor who plays a german soldier in a waffen SS unit MUST believe in all of the actions that those units participated in.

      Knowing that their is a difference between the two is where intelligence ends and wisdom begins.


  59. Total says:

    ” think all Zuber is saying, and all the SS Wiking group is saying, is that most soldiers were in fact just working-class individuals with no particular political or racial extremism”

    Yes, it’s clear what they’re saying. The point is that they’re *wrong*.

  60. Waitman Beorn says:

    @ Hold on Now: To add to Total’s comment as well.

    You write “However, the average German soldier was not present at most of those incidents. The average German soldier never heard of them, never saw them, and never participated. ”

    This is completely false…historically. No one is “emotionally spouting facts” which seems to be somewhat of a non-sequitur anyway. In all of the sources I have listed above, you will find evidence of German soldiers being present, hearing, seeing, and participating in atrocities and mass murder.

    Comparing the Waffen-SS to the American Special Forces is in no way a relevant comparison and probably highly offensive to our servicemen and women in that branch.

  61. Michael Dorosh says:

    The hideous thing about the Wehrmacht’s complicity in the mass murder of commissars, prisoners of war, unarmed soldiers and civilians on a massive scale, is the zeal in which they documented it. All anyone needs to do is walk into the German archives, or indeed, crack one of the many texts mentioned above.

  62. Well Ok says:

    I’m sorry, but you people are in fact making emotional arguments. You keep reiterating stale and moot points like, “The hideous thing about the Wehrmacht’s complicity in the mass murder… on a massive scale, is the zeal in which they documented it.”

    That is completely and wholly irrelevant to the question of whether most German soldiers were personally complicit and condoning of war-crimes. The fact of the matter is that most soldiers are not combatant personnel. Of those who are, a large percentage of them never see combat, never kill anyone, and never even see the enemy.

    It is absurd to state that most German soldiers were participating in war-crimes. Do you seriously expect me to believe that the mechanics were working at death-camps in their spare time? Do you really think that the radio operators shot random Jews in between incoming messages? Did the artillery crews hunt partisans for a hobby? Please! Most of these people were working non-stop doing exactly the same sort of routine military-tasks that have to be done in all armies. Their actions had nothing to do with war-crimes, or politics, or racism.

    Germans in 1939 were not part of some hideous monstrous military race. The vast majority of them were no different than Americans: they were honest, hard-working, decent people. They were not a nation of criminals. To say otherwise is in fact racism. As in any war, the vast majority of war-crimes were committed by a very narrow percentage of the actual population.

  63. Total says:

    “The fact of the matter is that most soldiers are not combatant personnel. Of those who are, a large percentage of them never see combat, never kill anyone, and never even see the enemy.”

    Do you imagine that war crimes took place only in combat? The fact of the matter is that the participation of large numbers of Wehrmacht soldiers in the Holocaust has been extensively documented, whether it be actually shooting people on the edge of a mass grave, supporting the logistics of an Einsatzgruppe, or something else.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      A large number of the mass shootings were actually by Police Battalions and “rear area” troops – the “ordinary Germans” that Daniel Goldhagen and Christopher Browning talk about. I think the doubters really need to start reading a little more instead of just smugly asserting that the Germans were just nice, friendly boys next door.

      • whale says:

        Perhaps you should do more research into the issue and quit smugly asserting your false claims that the German troops are all complicit in atrocities.

        Those logistics personnel dropping off supplies of gas and food are not responsible for the actions of units that commit atrocities, they are only responsible for their own actions.

        This contention that because thousands of Germans committed atrocities that all german soldiers were complicit is completely unfounded in historical fact and in basic logic. Many does NOT equal all.


  64. You Aren't Listening says:

    You said, “The fact of the matter is that the participation of large numbers of Wehrmacht soldiers in the Holocaust has been extensively documented.” Nobody here has ever disputed that. All we have said is that most German soldiers were not participants in war-crimes.

    You talk about ‘facts’, but you ignore the actual facts — most soldiers had essentially nothing to do with the war-crimes which were committed. I am quite certain that most German soldiers never even saw Jews, let alone killed them. In fact, some German soldiers saved Jews.

    Meanwhile, there was an actual war going on, and most German soldiers were fully preoccupied with the war. Ultimately, my point is simple: not every German soldier was a bloodthirsty Nazi who spent all day committing crimes against prisoners and civilians. When you try to pretend otherwise, it is you who is distorting history. Even Oskar Schindler wore a swastika.

  65. Waitman Beorn says:

    @Anonymous Poster

    Please define and support with evidence your assertion that “most German soldiers were not participants in war-crimes.”

    How many guarded POW camps in which the inhabitants were starving? How many surrounded ghettos while the inhabitants were rounded up before being shot? How many executed Soviet soldiers who had surrendered? How many participated in the creation of “Desert Zones” which entailed the forced deportation of the people and the complete destruction of all property? (Note: these were almost exclusively FRONT LINE troops) How many soldiers expropriated property from murdered Jews and civilians? How many soldiers forcibly occupied civilian housing, throwing the inhabitants out into the elements (which is a death sentence in the Russian winter? The evidence is clear that these were not isolated events.

    You write “I am quite certain that most German soldiers never even saw Jews, let alone killed them.” How are you “certain?” What is the evidentiary basis for this claim? I would be very much interested in the archival documents or secondary sources which you have investigated that support this assertion.

    No one is really interested in what you are willing to “believe.” Professional historians are interested in being able to support assertions with evidence (as the massive amount of scholarship offered above does.)

    • whale says:

      Quit claiming academic certainty when you clearly do not have it, thousands of Germans who DID commit atrocities DOES NOT mean that millions of Germans soldiers are war criminals.

      Your facts and your conclusions are faulty if you continually make such assertions.


  66. Total says:

    “I am quite certain”

    Excellent. I’m quite sure you have evidence to back that up, and I’d be happy to see it.

  67. Where is Your Evidence? says:

    Where is your Evidence? You are the ones asserting a crime was committed by ‘most’ German soldiers, and the burden of proof is therefore upon you to prove that ‘most’ German soldiers were war-criminals. You have listed books and archives, none of which support your assertion. There is no document in an archive in which the commander of the German army states, “All of our soldiers are war-criminals, and here is a list of war-crimes committed by each and every single soldier.” In fact, the evidence actually shows that most war-crimes were committed by ‘special’ paramilitary organizations.

    You are simply confusing the issue by concluding that because numerous war-crimes were committed, therefore all German soldiers were complicit. That is simply irrational. Most German soldiers never killed anyone. Most German soldiers never tortured anyone. Most German soldiers never burned anyone’s house down. That is true of soldiers in every single war.

    We all know the German government committed genocide, and that many German soldiers participated, but the majority of German soldiers were no more responsible for what happened at Auschwitz, than were members of the American 101st Airborne responsible for what happened at Abu Grahib prison in Iraq. It is simply absurd to conclude that just because a war-crime happened, that everyone in the unit participated. A single platoon at My-Lai killed 500 people in Vietnam, but that does not mean the entire 23rd Infantry Division was complicit. This same logic holds true for German divisions.

    For starters, let’s begin with this simple question:

    What percentage of German infantry worked at death camps?

    Unless you can prove the answer is in excess of 50%, I think we will have to conclude that the majority of German infantry did not work at a death camp. If you actually study the issue objective, you will realize that most German soldiers never even saw a death camp.

    If you want to start working on an extra-credit question, we will next investigate:

    What percentage of German motor-pool mechanics were also members of an Einsatzgruppe.?

    Perhaps you will surprise me with a telling argument that proves that the majority of German mechanics took breaks from fixing vehicles in order to go hunt Jews. More likely, you will have to concede that most German mechanics spent the war fixing vehicles. Indeed, they were far more interested in finding socket wrenches, than in finding Jews.

  68. […] more folks should read about, and ponder.  His column on History Net from a couple weeks back, “On Being a Wiking,” has drawn a variety of reactions, some good, some bad, some nuanced, others not so much.  […]

  69. Terence Zuber says:

    In answer to Mr. Megargee (Oct 23 1246), “in toto” doesn’t seem to me to require much exegesis: it means everybody: Dorsch and Beorn et.al. are pretty clearly arguing that every member of the German armed forces, down to Army medical units, Luftwaffe ground personnel and Kriegsmarine cargo ship crews were guilty by association of war crimes.
    Beorn’s war crimes bibliography looks like good German work: tons of material that says little. It includes two works on atrocities in Serbia, one in Greece, one in Poland and general works on the holocaust.
    The subject isin’t Greece – to my knowledge, there were never any SS units in Greece. The subject is the Wiking division. I say again, be specific: when did Wiking execute commissars, Jews and prisoners? Considering that probably upwards of 60,000 soldiers cycled through the division in the course of the war, if there were atrocities (and every division on both sides committed some) was their guilt any greater than that of the members of the 23rd US Infantry Division ofor the My Lai massacre.
    On the other hand, if I don’t miss my guess, Beorn and Dorsch probably believe that all American soldiers in Vietnam were war criminals, too, and indeed that “Soldaten sind Moerder” (All soldiers are murderers).
    I see that Beorn, Dorsch et. al. won’t touch the question of RAF carpet bombing war crimes. Good idea, from their point of view: not much room for argument here. RAF air and ground crew alike, to include medical and supply personnel, knew excactly what they were doing: destroying German cities containing women, children and the elderly. Or perhaps Boern and Dorsch can inform me, for example, what industrial and military value Wuerzburg had that called for killing 3,000 people? None: but the RAF did wipe out a lot of historic buildings, churches and an entire university. Even SS Wiking never did that.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      “pretty clearly arguing that every member of the German armed forces, down to Army medical units, Luftwaffe ground personnel and Kriegsmarine cargo ship crews were guilty by association of war crimes.”

      In fact, that argument has not been made at all.

      • whale says:

        The argument HAS been made that MOST(by definition 50.01%) of the german military are guilty of war crimes BECAUSE of the evidence that is there that SOME german military units committed war crimes. Some DOES NOT equate to all in an logical statement.


  70. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    If you’re going to continue sidestepping my arguments, Mr. Zuber, I don’t see much point to this discussion. But what the heck; I always was a glutton for punishment, and there may be someone reading this who is more open-minded. Allow me to just address a few of your points:

    Actually, the original discussion was about reenactors; then you came in with your assertion about Prof. Citino, which I quoted above. Since you have now clarified your use of “in toto,” I’ll respond on that basis.

    As I indicated in my last post, guilt by association is a tricky thing. It obviously does not hinge on the direct commission of a crime. It depends, instead, on being a part of a group that committed crimes. On that basis, clearly anyone who fought for Nazi Germany is guilty by association. But before you howl that I’m not being fair, I’ll admit as much. I don’t believe in labeling people on that basis; we don’t learn much that way. My argument was, and remains, simply that people have to recognize the role that the German armed forces were called upon to play, and did in fact play, in wars of conquest and genocide. That applies to former German soldiers, to reenactors, and to anyone who wants to discuss the subject honestly.

    You seem to want to defend the Wiking Division; heaven only knows why. Because they only committed a *few* atrocities? (And for those who believe that rear area troops were too busy fixing trucks and shoeing horses to commit any crimes, perhaps the actions of division’s *bakery* column in support of Einsatzgruppe A would prove interesting.)

    But the broader point is this: is it so important what SS reenactors’ unit someone chooses to join? The symbolism is the same. If they aren’t going to educate the public about the SS and what it stood for, warts and all, they are either willfully ignorant or disgustingly insensitive.

    You’re comments about Dr. Beorn’s bibliography are mystifying and unsettling. You dismiss the products of decades of study by some of the most renowned scholars in the field. Why? How can you expect anyone to take you seriously as a historian when you make such statements? You display a lack of professionalism that is mind-boggling.

    By the way, it’s true that there were no major SS units in Greece. The army committed genocide there all on its own — as you would know, if you bothered to read some of the books you so breezily dismiss.

    You keep bringing up the Allied bombing offensive (after loudly accusing other correspondents of changing the subject). I’ll just make one point here: intent is important. The Allies never intended to wipe out or enslave the German race. They did not launch a war of aggression. The German leadership, including most of the Wehrmacht’s senior commanders, intended to commit acts that they knew to be criminal.

    I’ll say again, for the record: only a small proportion of German military personnel actually committed war crimes. But most of them knew about the crimes, and many supported them. And those are facts that cannot just be brushed away.

    One last point, since military service is important to you: Dr. Beorn is a former army officer and an Iraq War combat veteran. I am also a former combat arms officer, though I was fortunate enough never to have anyone shooting at me. Neither one of us believes that all soldiers are murderers.

    I hope the other readers of this blog will forgive my occasional lack of diplomacy in this post. But I tend to get a little heated when someone who purports to share my profession writes such obnoxious tripe.

    • whale says:

      WRONG, you can possibly lay guilt by association on the german soldiers and the enitre german population as a whole, but the problem with that premise is guilt by association ISN’T a war crime, participation in an activity against international law IS!

      Either way, no reenactor can be guilty of ANYTHING just because he chooses one side in a reenactment.

      We do not have corruption of blood in this country, everyone stands up for and is responsible for his own actions


  71. William Hawkes says:

    RE: Re-enactors and their units.

    I am not involved in the re-enacting as a part of any group.

    I am a collector, and have uniforms and equipment from US, British, German, and Soviet armed forces , both WWI and WWII.

    I have donned the uniforms and equipment of all the forces named above.

    I have to tell you that there is a certain feeling that I get when I don the German uniform and equipment; the feeling is much different from that of the other forces. ( I do not have a soviet uniform, so i will leave that country out of the mix ).

    The feeling is not pleasant. I recognize that there are many who serve with groups that represent German Wehrmacht units, such as Gross Deutchland. There is an annual re-enactment of the Battle of the bulge each winter at Fort Indiantown Gap near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The event features both groups that represent the airborne units, as well as German units. There are no units that are SS.

    For an in-depth look at the world of re-enacting, I would suggest the book “WarGames” by Jenny Thompson. She went inside the groups as both an observer and participant ( Dressed as a WWII Army Nurse and as a war correspondent ). She mentions the Waffen SS units, and her discriptions of many of the members is not flattering. One SS unit member tells her that he is aware that some in the group made him wonder ” if he was dealing with some neo-nazis “. Another told her that he was quite sure that there were several in his unit.

    RE-enacting is an ok hobby, but one does have to be very careful. As we have seen, one persons hobby can be very offensive to some else. Not a problem usually, unless you are running for office.

    I have been asked to dress as a German soldier when giving lecture at a local university. I have declined the invitation, though i do bring in equipment and weapons for demo purposes.

    Bill Hawkes
    Williamsport, Pa.

  72. Luke Truxal says:

    Dr. Megargee thank you for clearing up the RAF issue.

    The RAF switched to city bombing, because they did not possess the same level of accuracy that their American counterparts enjoyed. Also, the British were not willing to risk their bombers in daylight raids which proved costly for the Americans who conducted precision raids. Bombing accuracy in World War II was not nearly on the same level as it is now. Therefore, there were more civilian deaths, because the technology did not allow for precision guided munitions.

    The intent was not to systematically kill off the German populous, but rather to systematically destroy their war economy. Through these means the RAF and US air forces attempted to shorten the war. Sadly, there was a lot of collateral damage and civilians were killed.

    I have not served in the military. I hope that doesn’t hurt my opinion.

  73. Bakery, Einsatz A? says:

    Mr Megargee mentioned something about a bakery column and Einsatzgruppen A? Could you clarify? I briefly did an internet search on this myself, but all I could find was this account in which (near the bottom) a member of a bakery platoon expresses shock and horror at witnessing warcrimes in which he did not partake.


    Anyways, I was just curious. I’m sure some bakers committed warcrimes, but clearly many did not.

  74. A Good Point says:

    Terence Zuber did raise a good point, “The subject is the Wiking division. I say again, be specific: when did Wiking execute commissars, Jews and prisoners?” Since everyone wants to educate about the truth of the Wiking division – can we hear it? I’m genuinely interested. There is no need for all this argument — lets just get to the facts.

    Does anyone actually know the details? So far I’ve heard of one or two incidents, neither of which was discussed in detail. If there is more to the story of the Wiking division, let’s hear it. I certainly don’t know of any books which discuss this in detail, and although plenty of books have been cited here, I suspect none of them has a complete chapter on the Wiking division.

    I challenge one of you to write a historical article!

  75. Luke Truxal says:

    A Good Point, if your are so adamant about asking us to prove to you these events didn’t happen, then cite three sources that say they didn’t happen. Just give me three sources that I can look up saying that the Wiking Division was innocent. I’ll give you one source if you can find the Steiner quote. Alright, so all you need is two more plus the Steiner quote.

    Oh and I did look up the specific incidents that you were asking about, but I won’t post them until you actually do some work and give me three sources.

    I apologize if I come off a little grumpy, but it’s late and I’m tired.

  76. But Luke... says:

    Dear Luke, I never said the Wiking Division was innocent of anything. Can you see how you are making an emotional argument, based off your completely wrong view of what I think, without actually listening to what I’ve actually said? By putting such completely inaccurate words in my mouth, you weren’t even responding to me!

    All I’ve done is ask for more information: if the Wiking Division committed numerous warcrimes, there should be enough information for someone to compile a multi-page account of the Wiking Division’s atrocities.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps they committed numerous war-crimes but there is not enough evidence to write about. Or perhaps they only committed a handful of war-crimes in a few isolated incidents. I frankly have -no idea-. I’m not making an argument here, either for or against anyone. However, certain people here are claiming to know an awful lot about this subject, and if they are truly so knowledgeable, then please enlighten me by publishing a proper academic article on the subject.

    That’s my challenge to anyone who claims to know what they are talking about: write about it. Don’t just post a flippant trite rude argumentative blog post comment — WRITE AN ARTICLE. I want to see a comprehensive examination of the Wiking Division’s activities. I have no clue what the Wiking division did, but I’ve noticed people are complaining that the Wiking website doesn’t tell us what they did. Well, what did they do?

  77. Total says:

    “That’s my challenge to anyone who claims to know what they are talking about: write about it. Don’t just post a flippant trite rude argumentative blog post comment — WRITE AN ARTICLE. I want to see a comprehensive examination of the Wiking Division’s activities. I have no clue what the Wiking division did, but I’ve noticed people are complaining that the Wiking website doesn’t tell us what they did. Well, what did they do?”

    Oy. Your assumption is that this hasn’t been done already. Your ignorance is in not knowing how to figure that out, and so you expect others to do your legwork. Waitman Beorn posted a massive bibliography above and it would be easy to explore those and find out exactly about what he’s talking. But, in any case, I will help with your inability to do research.

    The following link will give you a range of sources that talk specifically about the Wiking Division’s atrocities:


    But in case you’re unable to handle this, the war crimes of the Wiking Division are specifically outlined in:

    Dieter Pohl, “Die Einsatzgruppe C,” in Peter Klein (ed), _Die Einsatzgruppn in der bestezten Sowjetunion 1941/1942_, (Berlin: GBHWK, 1997), pp. 71-87.

    Just for a start, George Stein in _The Waffen SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard At War, 1939-45_ mentions that the Wiking division murdered 600 Jews within two weeks of the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union. p. 272.

  78. Total says:

    That link should be:


    (Google Books)

  79. Terence Zuber says:

    Mr. Megargee. Do discussions in the profession you say that you represent routinely degenerate, as you do, into name-calling and and hominem attacks? That is a sign of intellectual bankrupcy. OK, I’ll argue on your basis, which is not one of historical fact, but philosophical morality. According to you, the only important thing is that German armed forces, indeed the entire German nation, was guilty of aggressive war, in this case (since the subject was SS Viking)aggression aginst the peaceful, deeply moral Soviet Union, which, not even considering the murder of millions of internal class enemies, you might remember also invaded Poland, along with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia (do I need to go on?). According to you, Stalin never intended to “enslave the human race” nor “launched a war of aggression”. On the Germans wanted to do that. Stalin was a GOOD GUY. Aside from this obvious absurdity, no legtimate philosophical or moral system is based on mass guilt and punishment. Can we go back to what the SS Viking did now?

  80. Terence Zuber says:

    Mr. Truxal. Do you honsestly think that the destruction of Dresden was “collateral damage”? Nobody has tried to make that argument in about 50 years. For more current scholarship try: Randall Hansen, Fire and Fury (2000) which makes it clear that the objective of the RAF bombing campaign was the destruction of German cities, period.

  81. Total says:

    name-calling and and hominem attacks? That is a sign of intellectual bankrupcy.

    Someone who falsely impugned two of his opponents (both veterans, no less) about whether they believe American soldiers to be war criminals should probably not connect ad hominem attacks and intellectual bankruptcy.

    deeply moral Soviet Union, which, not even considering the murder of millions of internal class enemies, you might remember also invaded Poland, along with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia (do I need to go on?).

    Oh, good. War crimes are fine as long as they’re against bad people.

    I have a longer comment tied up in moderation, but I will note that George Stein in _The Waffen SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard At War, 1939-45_ mentions that the Wiking division murdered 600 Jews within two weeks of the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union. p. 272.

    Was it okay to murder them, Dr. Zuber, because they were part of the evil Soviet Union?

  82. Terence Zuber says:

    The argument that is being made is that all Germans are collectively guilty of war crimes by association. Unless this applies only to Germans, then why aren’t all American soldiers tainted by the collective guilt of My Lai? I’ve been personally on the recieving end of this BS argument: in 1968, 1969 and 1970 when I was in uniform I had people accuse me of being a baby-killer, among other things. The further argument was that only Germany was the aggressor, and therefore Germans share even more collective guilt. This conveniently overlooks continual Russian aggression both before 1941 and after 1945. Do the Russians get a free pass for Katyn because they were only murdering Poles? It also overlooks the fact that France and Britian did not obtain their Empires by the consent of the governed. Not to mention Belgium, whence Conrad got the material for the Heart of Darkness. Or do you think imperial powers get a pass when dealing with persons of colour? Don’t try that argument at an American university. That Wiking murdered 600 Jews “within two weeks of the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union” was unknown to me. I would need to know the exact source of this information. In any case, even if true, it would mean that certain individuals were guilty, not all 16,000 or so members of the division.

  83. Luke Truxal says:

    Dr. Zuber I will take a look at that book. With your permission Dr. Zuber I will try to explain my argument a little better, but I don’t think your completely wrong in that the Allies did commit atrocities of their own. I just need a while to gather my sources so my official response will come a little later tonight.

    Total thank you for the link I will take a look at that as well.

  84. Luke Truxal says:

    Dr. Zuber, after reading a few of my books on strategic bombing, I have come to the conclusion that the RAF and 8th Air Force had no intention of killing German civilians. I believe that they were honestly after large industrial targets and cities.

    For the USAAF civilian casualties seemed to be more of a result of poor technology than intent. In America’s Pursuit of Precision Bombing, 1910-1945 you will find a graph on page 173, which details the bombing accuracy by the 8th Air Force from 1942-1943. At it’s peak the Americans, in precision raids, achieved an accuracy just above 30%, while trying to land their bombs in a one thousand foot target area. On page 176 there is another graph that details the bombing accuracy from 1944-1945. By April of 1945 bombing accuracy had risen to just below sixty percent. That’s like trying to hit an apple with a shotgun. I have no doubt in my mind that the Americans were very capable of aiming and missing their targets, and under good conditions.

    According to what I’ve read there were military targets within Dresden that made the city a legitimate target. It seems that both Doolittle and Harris agreed that the city was a military target. Under the agreements reached at Casablanca the RAF was to perform an area bombing of the city, while during the day the Americans performed precision raids.

    The reason the British conducted terror raids during World War II, was because they found them useful in stirring unrest in the civilian population. The limited strategic bombings of Germany during World War I showed examples of that. The intent was not to kill civilians, but rather to lower morale to an extent where the people would overthrow their leadership. That is why the terror raids were also referred to as morale bombing. There are numerous conversations on how the strategic bombings effected the morale of the German people.

    With that said, I do think that the city bombings that Harris conducted served his two purposes: to destroy the morale of the German people and preserve his air force. Do I think Harris is guilty of war crimes? Yes.He definitely did some overkill as the war concluded. I think Harris not the RAF was guilty of war crimes. Charles Portal criticized Harris and his area bombing campaign, but was unable to force Harris to shift tactics. Bomber Command: The Myths and Reality of the Strategic Bombing Offensive 1939-1945 covers this debate on pages 386 and 387 follow this debate. I know that’s an old book.

    I still think that if the British felt they could successfully destroy industrial targets in precision missions, and without high losses, they would have. Charles Portal was an advocate of precision strikes.

    I apologize if my previous post was too general of a defense of the Allied Bomber Offensive. I still believe killing civilians was not a primary target. I do believe that for the RAF, civilian areas were targeted to lower their morale.

    Dr. Megargee stated previously, “The Allies never intended to wipe out or enslave the German race. They did not launch a war of aggression. The German leadership, including most of the Wehrmacht’s senior commanders, intended to commit acts that they knew to be criminal.”

    Dr. Zuber, I do agree that not every German was guilty of war crimes. I think as historians we need to be careful not to classify every German soldier as a Nazi. However, to me, the difference is that many German commanders participated in atrocities with the intent not to end an awful war, but rather to wipe out several human races.

    Hastings, Max. Bomber Command: The Myths and Reality of the Strategic Bombing Offensive 1939-1945.

    McFarland, Stephen F. America’s Pursuit of Precision Bombing, 1910-1945.

    I also consulted:
    Miller, Donald. Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.

    Ira Eaker’s Papers [Mostly from 1942-1943]

    I do realize that most of the primary sources that I have looked at focus on the Allied Bomber Offensive prior to Dresden. Donald Miller does point out that the US air strategy started to shift to a less precision focus around the time of Dresden. According to him there was a backlash that forced the Americans to return to precision bombing.

  85. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    I do realize that my last post may have added more heat than was necessary, and I apologize if that heat distracted from the meat of the debate, but I stand by the substance of my arguments. Moreover, I think it should be clear that my arguments do not correspond to the opinions that Mr. Zuber would like to put in my mouth with his last post to me.

    At this point, the other side of the debate appears to be focusing on these points:

    – German war crimes were no worse than Soviet or indeed American and British war crimes;

    – not all members of the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS committed war crimes;

    – not all members of the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking committed war crimes;

    – it’s ok to be a reenactor playing a member of the Wehrmacht, or indeed a member of the Wiking Division, because not all of them were criminals.

    If I have mischaracterized one of the lines of argument, or missed anything, please let me know.

    Here’s my take on those points, laid out as straightforwardly as I can:

    On the relative evil of the different systems: I don’t believe I have argued anywhere that the Soviet system was good, or that Stalin was. As a matter of fact, I said just the opposite in my first post. I don’t think anyone here needs to be convinced that Stalinism was evil. It is also true that the western Allies carried out attacks on women and children in the course of prosecuting the war, and that some of them did so with malice aforethought.

    But to paraphrase the old quote, that is true, but it is also irrelevant to the present debate. The point that I have argued consistently is not that German crimes nullify those of other states, or that other states’ crimes are unworthy of examination and condemnation. My arguments, once again, are these:

    The Wehrmacht, as an institution, by conscious decision of its most senior leaders, took an active role in a war of conquest and genocide. The SS, including, on occasion, units of the Waffen-SS, took a leading role in the crimes. Those facts have been the subjects of a whole series of books and articles by reputable historians, many of which Dr. Beorn listed.

    Most Wehrmacht soldiers were not directly involved in war crimes, but there are important caveats to that statement. All of the men were subjected to propaganda about the nature of the war in the east and about their foes, as the Nazis defined them. Almost all of the men received specific orders that authorized crimes, and later orders that justified them. Most of them also knew of crimes being committed while the campaign was going on. These are points of fact that have also been thoroughly documented, and anyone who wants to learn more about them has only to look at the literature and at the sources upon which it rests. A blanket dismissal of that literature is not an argument; if the facts are in dispute, let’s see the documentary evidence for the other side.

    From there, we do get onto somewhat shakier ground. What did the soldiers of the Wehrmacht and members of the Waffen-SS think about the nature of the war in which they were engaged? Here, again, I’ll point out that millions of men took part in the war (17-19 million, to be more exact), and in those millions there was every opinion imaginable. Some were horrified at the crimes they saw or heard about; at the other end of the spectrum, some were enthusiastic. I believe that, in the mass in the middle, some may have had qualms, but believed what they were told, that such actions were harsh but necessary. And there was enough going on in their lives that most of them could get by without paying a lot of attention. Again, we have documentation to support this picture, even if we cannot pin down exact numbers of soldiers who fell into each category.

    Here I’ll just point out that there were important differences between the mass of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. Until late in the war, the latter consisted of volunteers. As part of the process of volunteering, and in their training afterwards, the men developed a clear understanding that the SS stood behind the Nazis’ racist and expansionist ideology. If some of them focused on the anti-Bolshevik message, or merely on the SS’s kick-ass reputation, it wasn’t because they were ignorant of the SS’s program. And separating the anti-Bolshevik from the anti-Jewish and anti-Slav messages would have been akin to passing through the eye of a needle; it was all wrapped up together. Those men knew what the SS stood for.

    The SS Wiking Division was not called upon to commit some categories of crimes with any frequency. They would have received the Commissar Order and carried it out, but that only concerned a relatively small number of shootings. They did not deal with POWs after the initial capture. I do not have evidence of how they acted toward ordinary Soviet civilians. With a few notable exceptions, they did not deal with Jews — but in those exceptional cases, the men involved acted with enthusiastic brutality. So: was every member of the division a criminal? By deed, no; many of them never got the chance. But from the behavior of some of them, and from what we know about the Waffen-SS and its credo, I believe we can legitimately ask how many of them would have acted differently.

    Again, these are all facts; they have been documented in a variety of ways over 50 years and more of scholarly effort. They are facts that must be dealt with, not wished away.

    Now, to start circling back to the blog’s original subject: reenacting, and specifically joining an SS reenacting group. I don’t believe that many of the reenactors believe in Nazi ideology. The problem I have is that many of them display a lack of knowledge or interest when it comes to the dark side of the units they portray. Or, if they *are* informed, they display a willingness to set that knowledge aside, to pretend that, both now and during the war, the strictly military side of the war can be separated from the ideological background. And as I’ve also said before, to me they also demonstrate a callous disregard for the many people who suffered under the Nazi regime. I would no more put on an SS uniform than I would paint a swastika on the outside of a synagogue.

    Ok, I think I have flogged this horse enough. If any new points of detail come up, I’ll try to address them. Otherwise, this can stand as my take on the subject.

    Regards — Geoff Megargee

    • whale says:

      “Now, to start circling back to the blog’s original subject: reenacting, and specifically joining an SS reenacting group. I don’t believe that many of the reenactors believe in Nazi ideology. The problem I have is that many of them display a lack of knowledge or interest when it comes to the dark side of the units they portray. Or, if they *are* informed, they display a willingness to set that knowledge aside, to pretend that, both now and during the war, the strictly military side of the war can be separated from the ideological background. And as I’ve also said before, to me they also demonstrate a callous disregard for the many people who suffered under the Nazi regime. I would no more put on an SS uniform than I would paint a swastika on the outside of a synagogue.”

      Great, that is your OPINION, I personally wouldn’t do it either, but that doesn’t mean that someone who chooses to do so MUST advocate the position. My reason for not wearing a redcoat, a reb or a german uniform during a reenactment is that I am an American and want to portray an American, it has nothing to do with which side was more honorable during the war.

      Your opinion is found faulty by your assertion that your knowledge of reenactors must be the most accurate depiction of them. It is also completely faulty in your contention that reenactors are required to portray every facet of a historical reenactment, because doing so is completely impossible. The very idea that reenactors could do the reenactment AND then be able to give every facet of the battle and the units and the entire history of the units in an afternoon or weekend is absurd. This is what they wore and this is what happened on this day and the days preceding and following is about all the audience members have time for.

      The purpose of a reenactment is not complete historical knowledge to the participants and audience, the purpose is to INTRODUCE them to the topic and let THEM then choose to do more scholarship on the specific issues on their own.


  86. Terence Zuber says:

    Mr. Truxtal, I think we have an irrenconciable difference in moral systems. I find it unconscionable (literally) that women, children and old people be burned to death in order to “break German morale”. You obviously disagree. Moreover, the RAF was trying to “break German morale” long after that argument had lost any shred of validity. Wuerzburg, a completely undefended city of no industrial and military value, but of the highest cultural importance, was 85% burned to the ground with the loss of 3,000 lives on March 16 1945. Darmstadt and other cities got a similar treatment. The American army entered Wuerzburg on about 4 April. The whole of Germany was overrun by the end of April. Tell me that the point of the RAF Wuerzburg raid was not to destroy a German city but to “break German morale”.

  87. Total says:

    That Wiking murdered 600 Jews “within two weeks of the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union” was unknown to me

    Yes, that’s rather the problem.

    To continue:

    In spring 1945, the Wiking Division participated in the forced march of
    Jewish laborers through Austria. On March 28, 1945, members of the division shot 80 of the Jews. On April 4, 1945, the division recaptured 20 Jews who had escaped, forced them into a gully, and then shot them. Between April 7-11, 1945, still in Austria, the division shot 18 recaptured Jews handed over to them by the Volkssturm.


  88. Luke Truxal says:

    Did I not say that Arthur Harris was a war criminal and did participate in overkill? I do believe that Harris went beyond what his objective was towards the end of the war.

    “Do I think Harris is guilty of war crimes? Yes.He definitely did some overkill as the war concluded. I think Harris not the RAF was guilty of war crimes.”

  89. Luke Truxal says:

    Also, I’ve never said it was okay to kill civilians. I am just pointing out what the British objectives were and their intentions.

    When Churchill tried to convince Eaker to switch to night/city bombing he didn’t argue that the Allies could kill more civilians. He said that it was a safer method of bombing for the aircrews. In November 1943, Eaker wrote a letter stating that he would consider switching to blind bombing after suffering the casualties he did during the previous months of the war. I don’t think night/city bombing was an ideal plan of attack, but some felt that was the only way they could strike at Germany and suffer manageable losses.

    Now, individuals like Arthur Harris probably didn’t care whether the civilians got in the way or not. As you have stated, he did conduct raids against non-military targets. This classifies him as a war criminal, but since he was on the winning side he wasn’t put on trial.

    I have not studied the accuracy of night bombing so I can’t give you those figures. I think the reason they bombed cities was because they couldn’t hit a target at night. Cities were and are a lot easier of a target to hit at night than a specific military objective.

    Let me be clear, I am not in favor of city bombing. I am just stating why they went to city and morale bombing, because they felt they couldn’t accomplish daylight precision raids.

    I apologize if I came off like a person who supports killing civilians. I don’t. At the same time I am trying to look at this from a RAF and 8th Air Force perspective since they conducted the raids.

  90. Terence Zuber says:

    Mr. Truxal. As I understand it, you acknowledge that while Sir Arthur Harris was a war criminal there was no collective war guilt concerning other RAF personel, including flying personnel. On the other hand, this blog has a whole bunch of people who contend that since some German soldiers shot commissars and Jews, that due to guilt by association the entire German armed forces, down to female clerk-typists and teenage flak helpers in Schweinfurt are Class I War Criminals. So, do we have a double standard: one sort of justice for the British and another for Germans.

  91. Terence Zuber says:

    A couple of contributers to this blog, who have identified themselves as current or former US military personnel, contend that since some German soldiers shot commissars and Jews, that due to guilt by association the entire German armed forces, down to female clerk-typists and teenage flak helpers in Schweinfurt, are war criminals. If they had expressed this opinion while stationed in Germany during the Cold War their careers would have come to a quick end: they’d be on the next conveyance back to CONUS with an efficeny report that would have curled paint. In the 1960s and 1970s in particular all the senior German military personnel were WW II combat veterans, generally East Front. I can scarcely see one of these brave Wehrmacht-hating US soldiers refusing to work with a German unit (that is to say, half the maneuver units in NATO) because he thought the commander, a WWII East Front Knight’s Cross holder, was a war criminal. So by the whacko “logic” of these Wehrmacht-haters, the entire US military stationed in Europe since 1956 opearted with unindicted mass murderers and are therefore presumably accessories after the fact.

  92. Total says:

    Mr. Zuber, have you given up on the idea that the Wiking Division did not commit any war crimes?

    • whale says:

      That is where you are wrong, the Wiking Division did not commit ANY war crimes, SOME members of the division did and SOME members of the division did not. THAT is the error in your logic and conclusion.


  93. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    As of Saturday evening, 10/30, I have a long post awaiting moderation. I’ll let people read it and decide for themselves if Mr. Zuber’s characterization of my opinions is accurate.

  94. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    But for those people who wish to learn about the postwar efforts to clean up the Wehrmacht’s reputation, allow me to recommend The Myth of the Eastern Front: The Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture, by Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies II (Cambridge, 2008). Doubtless Mr. Zuber will dismiss it as Communist propaganda, but it’s worth a look anyhow.

  95. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    You know, I have to give a wry chuckle when I’m accused of being a Wehrmacht-hater. For a long time, well into my college years, I thought the Wehrmacht was the coolest thing in the world. Their uniforms were cool, their equipment was top notch, and they were the best fighters on the battlefield. Heck, when I started my Masters work on the German high command in 1989, I was buying all the stuff that men such as Halder and Guderian and Manstein had put out, about how that nasty man Hitler had fooled them all and then lost the war, despite their best efforts. Only when I started reading the professional historical literature and looking at the records myself did I slowly come to understand what a bucket of nonsense that was. And still, for a long time, I didn’t pay any attention to the criminal side of the war; I figured the SS did all the dirty work. So I fully understand how it is that people can be so taken with the Wehrmacht. But the truth is out there, folks, and it’s a lot more complicated than some people would have you believe.

  96. Terence Zuber says:

    I never said that Wiking never committed war crimes. In fact, I said exactly the opposite: that every division on both sides probably committed war crimes. In the Band of Brothers movie some of the members of the 82nd Airborne were sure that one of their most respected officers had shot German prisoners. What I have always said is that critics of the German armed forces need to be specific. If members of Wiking did committ war crimes, then who, when and where? Merely to assert that all German soldiers are war criminals by virtue of the fact that they were German is intellectually lazy and unconvincing.

  97. Total says:

    Mr. Zuber:

    Good! So the Wiking Division did commit war crimes.

    Next question: were some of those war crimes committed as part of the German war against the Jews?

    (For example: in July 1941, the meat and bakery company of the Wiking Division helped an Einsatzkommando set up a gauntlet through which Jews ran. The Wiking soldiers beat them with rifle butts and stabbed them with bayonets, and then at the end they were shot and killed.)

    (For another example, in spring 1945, the Wiking Division took part in moving Jewish populations of various concentration camps in Austria around to get them away from oncoming allied forces. On March 28, 1945, members of the division shot 80 of the Jews. On April 4, 1945, the division recaptured 20 Jews who had escaped, forced them into a gully, and then shot them. Between April 7-11, 1945, still in Austria, the division shot 18 recaptured Jews handed over to them by the Volkssturm.)

    • whale says:

      AND only those who ordered or ACTUALLY participated in those crimes are guilty, not the entire division and not the entire german military.


  98. Terence Zuber says:

    Total: Attention to detail is important. The Bakery company did not kill the Jews: the Einsatzkommando did. The Wiking division did not kill the 80 Jews on 28 March 1945, three Wiking officers and 5 MPs (unit unspecified) did.
    This is all you got, for five years of combat on the Eastern Front? Three incidents at the end of the war involving 118 victims maximum? How many members of Wiking do you think were involved? Maybe 20? What command level was involved? Platoon, maybe company? This is your proof that the entire Wiking division was a bunch of dedicated, Holocaust-commitin’ war criminals? The US 23rd Infantry Division shot 350-500 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. You need to get back to work, otherwise you have just proven that all in all the great mass of the Wiking division was not guilty of anything. You also need to read Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World to get a real appreciation foir the horrors of war in mthhe 20th Century.

  99. Total says:

    This is all I’ve mentioned, Mr. Zuber. There’s a difference. You haven’t answered my question. Did the Wiking Division commit war crimes as part of the war against the Jews? I’ll add another. Were the individuals who committed the crimes I mention punished by the commanders?

    • whale says:

      What a COMPLETELY fallacious argument! Do you have ANY idea how long investigations and a court martial take, especially in time of war when your army is reeling in defeat and 5 weeks away from the end of the war?


  100. Terence Zuber says:

    There is no proof that I know of that any senior (division, brigade, regiment) Wiking commander ordered the execution of Jews. As you can tell from your own examples, the killings were conducted by detached small units, So no guilt can be attached to the other 99.5% of Wiking personnel. So no, the Wiking Division as a unit did not commit war crimes. The incidents you cite took place about two weeks before the German army collapsed. I doubt that there were any formal courts-martial in those two weeks. The Wiking diovision had other problems. Did the American Army punish Lt. Calley? His company commander? The 23rd Division Commander got pulled from his assignment to be the Commandant of West Point, but only for trying to cover up My Lai.

  101. Total says:

    There is no proof that I know of that any senior (division, brigade, regiment) Wiking commander ordered the execution of Jews.

    Mr. Zuber, you’ve already admitted in this thread that you didn’t know of the atrocities the Wiking Division had committed, so I’m afraid that your assurance of the above is unconvincing, to say the least.

    The incidents you cite took place about two weeks before the German army collapsed

    I’ve cited two incidents that took place in 1941, so, no.

    Another question: was one of the German goals in the war to exterminate a specific set of people, including but not limited to Jews?

  102. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    “The Bakery company did not kill the Jews: the Einsatzkommando did.” Wow. What a stunning argument. So if I help to round up a bunch of people, then beat them and drive them literally to the place where I know they will be killed, I’m not guilty of murder?

    The point about orders has a certain superficial attractiveness to it. There is only one problem: The commanders within the Wiking Division did pass along a whole series of general orders before and during the campaign that called for, and later justified, the actions against Jews, Commissars, and ordinary Soviet citizens. Copies of those orders are available, in German and in translation, in any number of archives and publications.

    The point that makes the Wehrmacht case unique is not that Germans committed crimes while others did not. It’s that Wehrmacht soldiers were encouraged to commit crimes, and did so more freely than other armies. (And yes, I’m including the Soviets, whose government called for revenge, but not genocide. I’m sure that would be an academic argument to the citizens of East Prussia in the winter of 1945, but I believe it is significant, nonetheless.) And again, the SS was another animal entirely.

  103. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    I’m going to modify my last post, since it sounds too sympathetic toward the Soviets. I do believe there was a qualitative difference between the two systems, a difference that people should understand, but in practical terms, each system defined certain groups as enemies, and life for those groups was brutal and often short. With that said, however, we remove no responsibility from the Nazis by admitting that their opponents were evil too.

  104. Terence Zuber says:

    Sorry, I’ve lost interest in this discussion, which is going nowhere.

  105. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    Well, we haven’t convinced Mr. Zuber, but I hope we’ve provided a measure of historical truth to others who have been reading this.

    Of course, it’s also possible that everyone else gave up on this thread a long time ago! :)

    Cheers — Geoff Megargee

    • whale says:

      Except for the fact that you have COMPLETELY failed to justify your conclusions with facts. At NO POINT is it acceptable to pronounce guilt on 15K people for the actions of a few hundred. Only those persons who gave the order and those persons who actually participated in war crimes can be charged with a crime and not all of them will be found guilty.


  106. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    As a postscript, I’d like to ask the moderators why some messages get posted immediately, while others spend hours (or days, on a weekend) “awaiting moderation.” It really affects the flow of the discussion when a comment remains invisible while the discussion continues.

    • HistoryNet Staff says:

      The reason for the delay is that some comments go into our spam folder, which is a check system to prevent spammers from blowing the discussion wide open with nonsense and viagra posts. Our apologies for any problems this may cause.

  107. Total says:

    Since Mr Zuber has fled the scene, I will sum up the argument I was attempting to construct:

    Members of the Wiking Division committed atrocities. They did so as part of a larger German effort that had no goal other than genocide. The Wiking Division, at times, worked closely with that effort, most notably the Einsatzgruppe in the Soviet Union, or in moving Jews around Central Europe during the last year of the war.

    Does that mean that *every* member of the Wiking Division was guilty of war crimes? No. Does that mean that every member of the Wiking Division knew about the war crimes? Probably not.

    What it does mean is that the Wiking Division was an active and frequent participant (as a unit) in an effort aimed at wiping out the Jews. In this way, the unit was different from American war crimes in Vietnam (where there was not an organized genocide driven from the top). The atrocities committed by the Wiking members actively facilitated the primary goal of the Holocaust, which was to kill Jews and liquidate the Jewish population of Europe. That differs it from the American and British bombing efforts which had has their goals the defeat of Germany and not the liquidation of the German population.

    Was it different from the Soviets? The gulags of Siberia would argue perhaps not, but, in any case, whether the Soviets were comparable does not somehow exonerate the Germans from their genocidal acts. Those the Germans were exterminating were not the ones who had organized and run the gulag archipelago, and, in fact, were more likely to be its victims. The Holocaust was not self-defense.

    By way of final conclusion, whether every German soldier explicitly committed a war crime is somewhat beside the point. They were part of an institution and a nation whose central goal was the commission of enormous atrocities, working as part of a government that committed massive resources to the genocidal effort. Neither the Wiking Division nor the soldiers in that division did anything to hinder that effort and, when presented with opportunities, seem to have participated eagerly in it. In essence, individual soldiers of that unit may or may not have committed atrocities, but they were certainly part of a war crime.

  108. An Objective Observation says:

    Please write an article about the atrocities of the Wiking Division if there is so much evidence available. Citing a few bibliographies and books which cite some isolated instances might be fine enough for this polemic parlor game argument, but I think anyone who is a genuine historian will agree that surely this is a topic worthy of a focused research article which thoroughly outlines the subject in great detail. Maybe this could even serve as a thesis or dissertation subject.

    So far, Zuber is quite correct in noting that after all this argument, critics of the Wiking Division have only cited a handful of isolated incidents in which at most the grand total of a few hundred civilians were killed. In fact, tallying up the deaths cited thus far, the My Lai massacre incident still ranks in my mind as more grievous than everything the Wiking Division did. This is not because I believe the Wiking Division is innocent, in fact I am prone to believe that surely they must have committed genocidal acts. However, from a purely objective standpoint, the criminality of this particular division has not been proven.

    Am I wrong? Please, write an article, I’m genuinely interested and I’m sure it will get published. I’m not trying to argue. Frankly, I’m disgusted by what I see as an immature and hostile tone used by several people here. I don’t even wish to use my real name, since I can see how hostile certain individuals here are being towards those who seem to disagree with them. There is simply no need for such visceral statements.

    Look, if you think the Wiking Division was a criminal organization, and you actually have detailed knowledge of your claim, then those of us who are not as familiar with the subject would appreciate it if you would do what historians are supposed to do. It is clear that nobody has written a 20-page paper outlining the specific war crimes of this particular division, and if enough evidence exists, then there is no reason not to write one. If the evidence doesn’t exist, then please accept that Mr. Zuber has a valid point.

    If the Wiking Division was -truly- engaged as a division in genocidal activities, I guarantee you that they murdered civilians in the tens of thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands. Mr. Zuber has suggested instead that the division was far more preoccupied with traditional military duties. Frankly, I know very little about it, but I do know that citing the activties of a bakery company sounds more like a condemnation of that particular bakery company as it was composed at that particular time, rather than a compelling denunciation of the entire division’s activities over an extended multi-year period.

    • Roger says:

      Dear Objective:
      I knew someone would drag the My Lai massacre into this discussion. One platoon for one hour went nuts, and this country has been doing an anal exam ever since. We did not do that ever on orders, and when it was done in violation of orders–one time–the perps were put on trial. Not enough of the perps, and our UCMJ lets the enlisted men off Scot free unless they are charged while still on active duty. Only officers can be recalled to active duty to face charges, and so only a few careers were ended and Calley got a slap on the wrist. I was a rifle platoon leader at the same time, and have wondered since if he initiated it as his men said, or if he decided to try to kill everyone to put the lid on the war crimes committed by his men. It was a mess, it never should have happened, but I do wish our history books would pay more attention to the actual war and less to the protesters and this one war crime. Give it a rest, gentlemen.

  109. Total says:

    Please write an article about the atrocities of the Wiking Division if there is so much evidence available

    Please read the earlier comments. I’ve already cited an article about exactly that.

  110. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    @ An Objective Observation: I understand your frustration, but I’m not sure the answer is ever going to be entirely satisfying to you. It may be that, aside from the actions of the bakery company, and those of other subunits near the end of the war, we have no direct documentary evidence of crimes by the Wiking Division. However, as historians, we can legitimately ask if the Wiking Division, being SS, acted differently than other SS units for which we *do* have evidence. We do know that the members of the WD received the same general orders that other units did, which encouraged, excused, and even ordered acts that contravened international laws of war. We know that, in general, German soldiers — and, even more so, members of the SS — acted in accordance with those orders. And seen from the other end of the telescope, when a unit such as a bakery company acts with such barbarity, one can legitimately ask how different they were from the rest of the men who made up the division. I would propose that they could not have been that different.

    For the purposes of this debate, which originally concerned the good sense or morality of putting on an SS Wiking Division uniform, or even of a wider one about the history itself, the lack of opportunity to commit crimes is not conclusive evidence that a unit is innocent in its intentions. On the contrary, the evidence that *does* exist indicates, to my mind, that the members of the division did not fall in the “good guy” category.

    I, for one, would never claim that every member of the 5th SS Panzer Division “Wiking” was a criminal. But I feel confident, as a historian of World War II, the Wehrmacht, and the Holocaust, in concluding that the division itself participated in war crimes, and that it would have done more in that regard, if the opportunity had presented itself.

    But beyond that, I’ll say again — and again to return to the original discussion — that to put on the uniform of that unit, even if we posit that the Wiking Division did not commit as many or as serious crimes as some other units, is, at best, a horribly insensitive thing to do. In the effect it has on survivors and their kin, it is akin, as I said, to spraying a swastika on a synagogue. I don’t see a good excuse for that.

    • whale says:

      “I, for one, would never claim that every member of the 5th SS Panzer Division “Wiking” was a criminal. But I feel confident, as a historian of World War II, the Wehrmacht, and the Holocaust, in concluding that the division itself participated in war crimes, and that it would have done more in that regard, if the opportunity had presented itself.”

      First of all, you did persist in guilt by association and continue that here by stating that you do not believe that they had good “INTENTIONS” and surely WOULD HAVE committed more atrocities given the opportunity. INTENTION isn’t a crime, you must have actions with intentions.

      As to your OPINION that being a reenactor is akin to criminal damage to property, it is just ABSURD. You do NOT have the right to be free from ridicule, demeaning comments, or insensitive behavior in this country. We have something called FREEDOM OF SPEECH, so your sensitivity to some people and their hobby takes a back seat to it.


  111. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    And this being a Friday evening, I’m sure a whole raft of comments will appear before mine is released from spam filter purgatory.

  112. Indeed says:

    Indeed, I agree that it is undoubtable that numerous war-crimes were committed for which we have no evidence, and that many of these were committed by the Wiking Division. And I also agree that it would be wrong to conclude that every member of the division was a war-criminal.

    I just find it interesting that we lack more details on what the division did. Despite the insistence of a certain somebody named ‘Total’ that they have posted a link to an article filled with such details, the reality is we lack any such articles which specifically focus upon this division in the desired detail.

    In fact, I think in his own stumbling way, Rich Iott was postulating what Megargee suggested above, “… if we posit that the Wiking Division did not commit as many or as serious crimes as some other units…” I think its an interesting question. Was this predominantly non-German SS division more or less ‘virulent’ than the other SS divisions? Im not sure if adequate evidence exists to answer that question, but it is worth considering just for historical interests. Does that mean people should run around playing SS soldier for fun and games? No, of course not, but I do think a historian should try to write about it.

    The whole problem in this debate is that nobody has written such an account yet, and so there wasn’t much to argue about or reference. Of course, maybe I am wrong, there are a couple books on the division available at Amazon.com. I just have some instinctive doubts about how much detail they contain regarding war-crimes. Perhaps a close examination of the Nuremberg documents will shed a lot of light on this?

  113. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    @ Indeed: We run into a practical problem here, in that it takes months to do a proper investigation of something like this. I’m not trying to dodge the issue, just pointing out the reality. I would love to write an article about the Wiking Division’s crimes, but I lack the time in which to do so. I also don’t know how much of the division’s records survived.

    And in the end, there may simply be no documentary evidence about additional crimes. The crimes that the Wehrmacht and the SS committed fall into several categories. Some of them would have required that the Wiking Division have particular responsibilities, such as in antipartisan operations, assisting Einsatzgruppen or police units, or guarding POW camps. As far as I know (and my knowledge is very limited), the WD did not act in those roles, aside from the incident with the bakery company. Other crimes, such as shooting Commissars, would have been reported up the chain, but from a quick glance at Felix Roemer’s work, it looks as though no one has found such reports for the WD. More “ordinary” crimes against Soviet civilians would likely have left no paper trail; we would be dependent upon eyewitness testimony, which can be difficult to find. So, again, we are left with the evidence we *do* have, combined with what we know of the behavior of SS units in general, in order to draw a broad conclusion about the likely attitudes of men within the division. As long as we are clear and open about the sources we are using, the conclusions we reach are legitimately made, even if they are subject to debate.

    • whale says:

      So since we don’t have time to do the actual investigation and we might NEVER find any more evidence of atrocities committed by this division we should just assume that they are all guilty of war crimes?

      I don’t think so, only those that ordered or actually participated in crimes should be convicted of ANY crime. We have no corruption of blood in this country where the crime of the father is placed upon his family.


  114. Total says:

    Despite the insistence of a certain somebody named ‘Total’ that they have posted a link to an article filled with such details, the reality is we lack any such articles which specifically focus upon this division in the desired detail.

    Have you read the article to which I linked? I’m betting not.

  115. Geoffrey Megargee says:

    @ Total: mea culpa. I did just look at the sources you cited, and there is obviously more material available than I thought.

    @ Indeed and An Objective Observation: you’ll find a lot of information in the sources that Total cites.

  116. Kaye Downing says:

    Re-enactment is an excellent way to make a historical “impression” upon young people. I see nothing wrong with what the candidate is doing. Is he a member of a Nazi organization? Does he glorify the SS? No! He is just enjoying a hobby and presenting living history to others so that we do not forget. I see that it is no different from people in any type of costume such as those who do science fiction conventions or participate in SCA activities.

    There will always be those who take things to the extreme and there are probably some who glorify the Nazis in re-enactment but I will to say that they are very few and far between. The re-enacters that I have met are interested in the historical aspects of the hobby and creating “authentic” replica uniforms not in spreading and glorifying the Nazis.

    I have friends who fly WWI replica aircraft both Allied and central machines and they dress in period clothing. Are they really acting out a love of the Allied or Central Powers? No! they enjoy doing history, building something, and flying it.

    Leave this candidate alone and dwell more on the issues of the campaign of what he would do in office rather than his innocent hobby.

    • whale says:

      Especially since this is only one of several different units that he belonged to several years before he decided to run for office.

      ONLY if there is EVIDENCE of his true feelings should he be compared to a NAZI, otherwise, it should be taken as is as a historical reenactment hobby that he enjoyed with his son.


  117. Michael Harris says:

    I thought your article was right on! I am a WWII reenactor. In fact my last event will be this weekend. I’m 55 and as a collector I have more than enjoyed the hobby. I currently portray a Luftwaffe Colonel, commanding a Fallchimjager reg. In my 26 years of reenacting, I have met all types. Those who want to portray the soldiers of that time period and try to gain an understanding of what if possible those individuals went through. Some want to get out with the guys. And, unfortunately, there are those that are trying to either ressurect or further a belief that should be left in the memories of a burned out bunker in Berlin. Unfortunately, for the politician that embraced this hobby, he should have known that this would come up and whatever spin he tried to put on it would be interpeted another way. From all the comments I’ve seen, they are coming from all directions. I felt you covered this well, you gave your opinions and why. Thanks for being one of those guys who are able to stay in the middle.

  118. Marlette van der Merwe says:

    I suppose being a bit olde, I can see this issue from several sides. I grew up in the Jewish faith, and we attended many showings of film clips smuggled out ofthe death camps. And, in the audience (it was shown at our Hebrew school), were many older grannies who had managed to reach South Africa in time, and who watched the clips, hoping to recognise relatives. It was terrible to see.

    On the other hand, people love legends, and even the bloodthirstiest tyrant later takes on a veneer of glamour. Absurd, but there it is. We have german friends who still celebrate Hitler’s birthday. My poor husband shares his birthday with Hitler, and bitterly remarks that I always make fun of it. However, I wouldn’t worry too much about the games or dressing up. Put the guy in touch with Max Mosley – they will enjoy playing together!

    People need to move on, but some don’t, and they are the ones who ultimately lose out.

    All the best.

  119. David Strong says:

    Luke Truxal stated, “The RAF switched to city bombing, because they did not possess the same level of accuracy that their American counterparts enjoyed. Also, the British were not willing to risk their bombers in daylight raids which proved costly for the Americans who conducted precision raids. Bombing accuracy in World War II was not nearly on the same level as it is now. Therefore, there were more civilian deaths, because the technology did not allow for precision guided munitions.

    The intent was not to systematically kill off the German populous, but rather to systematically destroy their war economy. Through these means the RAF and US air forces attempted to shorten the war. Sadly, there was a lot of collateral damage and civilians were killed.”

    Sorry, Luke, but you are wrong about the precision raids by the USA Air Corps (later the USAAF). The British bombed at night, because they couldn’t withstand the losses (neither equipment nor men) that had accompanied their few forays during daylight bombing. The US leaders were determined to make the daylight bombing a reality, although by late 1943, daylight raids had nearly broken the back of the USAAF. Only the advent of long-range fighter escort made daylight bombing feasible.

    As for the precision, my father (Russell A. Strong, author of “First over Germany”, about the 306th Bomber Group) stated that most of the planes didn’t carry Norden bomb sights, usually only the lead aircraft of each segment, everybody else dropped on the leader’s bombs. Not exactly what we’d call “precision”.

    As for trying to destroy the war-time economy of Germany, we actually took the hard road. We attempted to destroy each economic segment, e.g., ball-bearings, transportation, factories, etc. In all likelihood, a concentracted, determined effort against only electrical and oil production plants and facilities would have yielded a more bountiful harvest in terms of grinding the entire German economy to a halt. We know what the lack of oil did late in the war to field units, a lack of electricity would have accomplished the same in the factories and other production facilities.

    Of course, it’s much easier to play arm-chair general (or quarterback) when the urgency is low and lives are not at stake.

    • Luke Truxal says:

      I would never say that the USAAF achieved precision bombing. I was just trying to point out that it was their goal. I’ll be the first to admit that their measure of a successful raid was not what I’d call accurate. I believe that success was all bombs landing within a one thousand foot circle. At one point the 8th flew 20 missions and 12 of these achieved this level of accuracy. In a report presented by Eaker to the CCS these were considered successful missions, but by no means am I saying the 8th Air Force was accurate.

      I agree with you on the war economy. There were better ways of striking Germany. As I am learning there are lot of variables that go into these decisions and pretty much everyone had their own idea of what strategic bombing was supposed to accomplish in Europe. This was a topic of great debate throughout the war amongst the USAAF and the RAF.

      By the way I read your father’s book and loved it. His research was amazing. From what I know he did so much for the 306th Bomb Group after the war and played an important role in telling their story. I am sorry to hear of his recent passing.

  120. Michael Horn says:

    I’m a 27 year Military Intelligence LTC retired from the US Army. I served with the children of these SS soldiers when doing tours in West Germany. My father was a flight engineeer instructor on B17’s until 1943 and then went on to the B-29 program. over half of the students he taught from 1940 till 1943 never returned home. … and I’m a Jew.

    To say my first German tour was difficult would be an understatement. In working with my West German counterparts – I ran the gamut from bitter Nazi’s to committed socialists – but for the most part – my counterparts were too young to fight in WWII and too young to understand (if indeed they were even born yet) to be complicit in the Nazi Terror.

    The Soviet slaughter of the Polish Officer Corps in the Katyn Forest was a portent of things to come in the war in the east. Anti-semitism was a fact throughout 1930’s Europe – the French, Germans and Russians all with that slime on their hands.

    Even in the United States – the American Nazi Party filled Madison Square Garden in the late 1930’s – and even after the horror of the concentration camps was exposed to Roosvelt and Marshall – the strategic war of attrition went on methodically without regard to the plight of the hapless camp inmates waiting for certain death.

    The passenger liner St. Louis returned to Germany with their ‘cargo’ of Jews denied entry into the United States. The American State Department refused to make allowance for Jewish refugees before, during and even after the war!

    As a technical intelligence officer – I had the opportunity to study WWII and post war German weapons – and had a begrudging admiration for their weapons engineering design, performance, etc. From the MG-34 machine gun (which we redesigned into our less capable M-60) to the first assault rifles – to Boeing B-52s and passenger jets that to this day owe their areodynamics to the Me-262. There is a cottage industry that exists in books detailing SS Order of Battle, uniforms, as well as those dealers who sell uniforms, badges, awards, belt buckles (“Gott mit uns”) and helmets – as well as K-98 rifles, etc. that support and enable these reinactors.

    Nazi reinactors can play dumb (or be ignorant – a common American trait) to the horror they represent and still be able live with themselves. There are as many apologists for Joe Stalin however, as there were to ole’ Adolph – and the list of crimes against humanity on either list is staggering.

    Our own children wear T shirts with Che Guerava as their hero – perhaps those on the left still celebrate the exploits of that murderous thug?

    In poor taste – absolutely … worse than Reagan visiting the Bitberg cemetary in W Gernamy – absolutely again.

    Our own WWII submariner “Mush” Morton slaughtered survivors of his torpedo attacks – only his death preventing him from an investigation of Wartime Crimes?

    The only absolute in all this is that the victors write history. This doesn’t excuse the slaughter of 12 million innocent souls because of the way they prayed to God or their socio-status within the ‘eugenic science’ parameters of the Nazi’s.

    As for this reinactor? Fredom to do something doesn’t mean one has to do it – nor is any stupid action free of social penalty. He walks the line between bad taste and being one who denies the result of Nazi policy … and who are we – as Americans, to judge a slaughter we allowed to take place with our own blood spattered hands and latent anti-semetic eyes.

    We are applying todays ‘enlightened’ social conscience to that of 70 years ago to try to make our points.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      The victors write history? Then why do we have this whitewashed view of the Eastern Front? Nonsense. German officers were let off the hook because we needed them for the Cold War. Look at the U.S. Army manuals such as SMALL UNIT ACTIONS DURING THE CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIA, written by German officers, and adopted by the American military in the 1950s. There were similar manuals on fighting in Soviet forests and the Russian winter. Western NATO countries let their German war criminal prisoners out of captivity early, rehabilitated them, and used them as allies because of the fear of the next big war with the Soviet Union. And in the meantime, lurid accounts of the war in the East by fellows like Hans-Ulrich Rudel were selling like hotcakes. Panzer officers could write books telling about how bad their opponents were, and since the Iron Curtain closed off any real honest appraisal of Red Army performance, the “true story” of battles like Kursk, Stalingrad, et al, are only coming to light in the west in the last few years. The Germans wrote the history of the Eastern Front, not the victors.

  121. C.K. Cassavoy says:

    Wow, nobody seems to get the whole point of the article.

    It’s not about reenactors, or who killed whom in WW2.

    It’s about a POLITICIAN who is WILLING to wear the uniform from an organization that is CRIMINAL!


    Would anyone be defending this twit if he was wearing a HELLS ANGELS vest/colours??

    Can’t we get back to the point and stop just taking shots at each other?

    “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room.”

  122. NimitsTexan says:

    Nordon bombsights were relatively expensive, highly classified, and very complex to use. Bombing on the lead aircraft was in fact an effort to increase precision, by having all the aicraft bomb off the most experianced bomadier’s aiming . . . similar concepts would be used up throught the Vietnam war. In fact, without high resolution radar or guided weapons, it this sort of bombing was much more precise than indivual aiming.

    Going afer ball bearings was not an attempt to destroy an individual economic segment, but rather an attemept to imobilize the entire Wermacht and shut down military production across the Reich. That the ball bearing industry would prove so resiliant, even resistant, to high explosive bombing was not nearly as obvious at the time as it seems now.

    Attacks against fuel plants did not really start to make themselves be felt until the Romanian fields were brought within range of bomber forces, and it took Soviet threats and occupation of those fields to finally immobilize the Wermacht. Attacks against POL in 1942-1943 would probably have been ineffective.

  123. Old Trooper says:

    And before anyone asks….yes I’m also a reenactor.

  124. Fred says:

    The writer’s personal feelings were that he did’nt think a candidate should be re-inacting the role of an SS soldier because of the atocities the SS committed.

    I’m ok with that except that re-inactor’s also participate in many WWII movies. For the sake of historical accuracy, they serve a valuble service. Politics aside, I think that the writer let his ‘PC hat’ get the better of him.

    Same as in the plastic modeling craft. Many companies are omitting the swastika from their decal card and box art. What an unfortunate decision. I always thought that historical accuracy is one of the enjoyable aspects that one strives for in these arts.

    It seems that many gifted intelectuals can no longer handle the truth. If we choose what history we can omit from the official record and chastise those who interpret it thru whatever hobby they prefer, we are no better than the censors of the past.

    Understandably, groups that actually live by the lifestyle, preach and glamorize it. Should be faulted for having that abhorrent behavior. But no matter what we do as a society, some will always exist among us.

    We’re only giving them justice with the benefit of omitting history, no matter how shocking and inhuman.
    A re-inactor is just that….an actor and not the real deal.

    If his/her appearance disturbs you, then he/she is an excellant re-inactor and had thus served the purpose.
    I would compliment them and thank them for striking fear into my heart. Less we forget that those who omit history, are condemed to repeat it.

  125. richard says:

    in case none has said already, we should note that stalin was as bad as hitler or worse, he starved millions of ukranians to death before the war had started. you all know the rest, but noone would stop you reenacting the russians.

  126. richard says:

    Btw I think the german war machine was awesome and I am part jewish [hence hate the politics of course]. Its not like we don’t get the message on how evil the politics were, but I do think we should be able to watch re-enactments and documentaries without constantly having that side of things shoved down our throats.

    You cant mend things by being dualistic, I just think it was all a lot more complex that goodies and baddies [great depression, TOV, capitalism etc etc]

  127. Total says:

    We are now at the point of the thread where people aren’t bothering to read all the comments and, as a result, are making statements that have been made and dealt with already. Yes, Richard and Fred, I’m talking about you.

  128. Bill K. says:

    Mr. Citino –

    I consider you to be one of the, if not the, premier WWII German historian in the United States. I have read all your books and relish your analysis and opinions. I thank you for writing this piece. I have been a reenactor for years of many different time periods and impressions, but primarily WWII. I also was an avid wargamer in the 70s, Squad Leader being my favorite. I still regret getting rid of my board as I headed to college thinking I had outgrown “childish things”.

    At any rate, I recently completed my MA in military history and am currently applying to PhD programs. As I said, I have reenacted for years and my take is that I have always used the hobby as an adjunt to my understanding of military history. I have flown in full bomber kit in a B17 bomber, jumped out of a C47 in full WWII US Army paratrooper kit multiple times, I have fired almost every weapon every used in war from 1776 to the present. I also know what it feels like to wear a WWII wool uniform and kit – the ins and outs, if you will, of the various accoutrements of both a US and German soldier. To me, this adds, however a small percentage, to my understanding and appreciation of the experience of soldiering in the past.

    I don’t by any stretch of the imagination think that reenacting can nor should be the only way a person interested in miltiary history should experience it – reading quality, scholarly works should always be the preeminent method. On the other hand, I do think that some of what I have learned in reenacting can help me as a historian better imagine the plight of the lowly combat soldier of the past.

  129. richard says:

    Sorry for not reading 126 replies, did I not make some unique observations? if not sorry.

    War is war as a study of e.g. rommels tactics etc, the politics are something of a sideshow ~ re-enacting only represents the aspects of war.

  130. FrankLJ says:

    This problem came up a few years ago, when it was revealed that Gunter Grass had been in the Waffen-SS. I think a post I researched for the discussion on his WikiPedia entry would be of interest to those trying to determine if Waffen-SS re-enactors are ‘appropriate’.

    My own opinion is that despite its many legitimate combat ops,branding the Waffen-SS a criminal organization is correct, and re-enactors should steer clear of it. The qualifications below are for the purpose of determining individual guilt. This is important so that justice can be done to individuals, but re-enactors are only concerned with the group as a whole.Almost all officers came from the regular SS, for a start. Re-enactors might consider the foreign legions though.

    *Grass was not a Nazi – What was the Waffen SS?*

    I would add a brief description of what the Waffen-SS was, the article needs it. Himmler was always trying to build up his empire, and as part of this, he encroched on the preserve of the Werhrmacht (Army). So the Party could have loyal troops independent of the Army, several regular combat units were raised and equipped by the SS for ordinary combat, starting in 1934. These were originaly called SS-Verfügungstruppe, using the same recruit pool as the Army, but drawing officers fron the SS. These units were mostly engaged in legitimate military operations, and were no more guilty of war crimes than regular Army units. The Army is not considered an untouchable organazation to-day, so, neither should those in the Waffen-SS who were real soliders be so considered.

    Another thing Himmler did was seize the Army’s foreign legion program during the war, and brand it with the SS label. So all the foreign volunteers for military service were tarred with the black SS brush (their home countries mostly considered them traitors, but that would have been true even if they had joined under Army auspices).

    Army and Waffen-SS, they were both in the service of the Reich, of course and its policy of conquest and enslavement, backed by harsh treatment and atrocity. But as reguar combat fighting troops,they are still not in the same class as the Allgemeine SS , the regular SS, the Party’s black-shirted bully boy enforcers who became the architects of genocide. It is a little confusing, especialy as the notorious concentration camp guards, the Totenkopfverbände, were taken from the Allgemeine SS and put into the Waffen-SS structure for administrative purposes. That, more than anything, got the Waffen-SS branded a criminal organization after the war.

    It may be useful to read the detailed Wikipedia article ‘Allgemeine SS’. Also, though after the war the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organization, this attitude has been modified a little since. The present German Goverment will now pay military pensions to some Waffen-SS soliders who were drafted and not Party men. Does Grass have a pension? It would be interesting to find out. Volunteers are excluded because they usualy turn out to have come thru the SS system (foreign volunteers are excluded to avoid stirring up bad feeling in their home countries). The Government definitely does NOT give anything to the Allgemeine SS, or to the Totenkopfverbände, whoever was running it. I hope this is helpful.

    When seeing that someone was a member of the Waffen-SS, one should ask further, and find if this solider was also a loyal Party man. This is a given in the Allgemeine SS, but not in the Waffen-SS. As I look at the record, it seems clear that though Grass fought for Germany, he was not a Nazi. There were many such

  131. richard says:

    A reenactor is at most a representation of all that and not the thing itself, it’s a copycat as like in the war-game tradition, as I child I played the Germans against my brother who played the allies, to me then it was just cool tiger tanks and a generally superior fighting force [as I saw it]. War is the same in all cases; the politics are secondary to that.

    For example WWI did not have the same politics and was largely a thrust for power of all Europeans, but the Germans were still portrayed as the bad guys though I see no reason why they were. It all seams a bit like history written according to the victor, if Germany had won why would they be particularly different to Romans or Mongols who also committed mass atrocities against people they considered as enemies and inferior.

    • Michael Dorosh says:

      Corrigan’s book clearly delineates why the Germans should be viewed as “the bad guys” in the First World War. It’s been fashionable thanks to the Beatles, 1930s and 1960s revisionism, to change the history around and imagine that Britain was dragged into the First World War because it was simply a colossal accident, or because Britain didn’t know what it was doing. Neither was the case; the war was firmly in Britain’s national interest and Germany was a villain. That doesn’t excuse the harsh treatment meted out at Versailles, which set off a complex chain of events afterwards, which we are still feeling the effects of, but it does serve to make the events of 1914-18 more comprehensible.

  132. Peter M says:

    A wise person once said that we say only what we ourselves need to hear. Applying this assertion to the idea of re-enacting and to the variety of comments above, I consider the degree to which violence, killing, murder, intolerance occupy not only those who participate in role-playing and the expressed reactions to everything from the Assyrians to an Ohio election candidate as remarkable.

    Contemporary American culture tolerates representations of combat, warrior demeanor and cruelty in our children’s entertainment: video games, comics, television reality shows. Adolescents and adults are inundated with the worst actions of humans against humans, animals and nature by daily local and national news and commentary. Re-enactments could counter these glorifications of hatred, murder and cunning evil. Do they?

    How will we be able to recognize and emulate the peacemakers and an ideal of love for one another in such a violence-enabling culture? Can we become open to the idea that each culture develops its own ideals or that what works in Ohio may not be better that those of the Punjab. War expresses our evil, prideful selves. No amount of international conventions, standards of conduct during combat or political redaction can enable us to be righteous warriors in a good war.

    I believe that re-enactments and their participants are attempting to re-live something evil, wrong, unimaginably horrible. Such occasions could help to prevent future wars if these re-enactments intend this outcome. The majority of comments above do not reveal such an intention.

    To be fascinated by the uniforms, mechanical weaponry, and strategy alone, avoids recognizing the reason for war: to be the victor able to impose control over the loser. Wars realign cultural values for right and wrong, for ideas of good and evil and for who is a friend or an enemy. Humans kill each other in wars–not just the bad guys or the good guys–because each side sees itself in the right, as the rightful victor.

    I for one would like to see a re-enactment that demonstrates how a battle could have been avoided in the first place. Such a re-enactment would honor the wounded and killed on both sides, while teaching the political and military leaders other means for resolving conflict and hatred.

  133. Total says:

    Richard, you’re not a child anymore, and there are some childish things you should put away.

    As to World War I, Germany invaded Belgium, France, and Russia, not the other way around.

  134. Lore says:

    The whole discussion is meaningless. Moral, political and juridical principles, including your personal religion of respect toward human life and human dignity, are prejudices devoid of any epistemic fundament. They are secular religions, no different from Christianism or the worship of the sun god, and the ideologically charged wars of the 20th century are identical to the confessional wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. If the Nazis exterminated masses of Jews, Slavs and so on, it just means that they behaved coherently with their mass mythology of race and nation. Science is always value-free.

  135. Mikenikeking says:

    Listen up boys im only gonna make these points once

    1.Yes the SS slaughtered jews. GUESS WHAT


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