Re-enactment is not a new idea, of course. Nor is re-enactment of battle scenes. Nevertheless, there appears to be a recent trend in re-enactment, especially but not exclusively popular in Britain, that can hardly be described as anything other than disturbing: the re-enactment of WW II battles. What is disturbing about this trend is the enthusiasm many of the participants show for playing Nazis, rather than Brits or other allies, at least according to this report.
Re-enactment is always somewhat problematic, as it invites revisionism. We’ve been told that history took a certain course or that certain individuals or groups acted in such and such ways. Personalizing one’s experience of history can lead to insight, but also to distortion. Because the games are mostly supposed to show German defeats, the SS, at least on the view of some participants, turns into a group of victims, dying the death of heroes on the battlefield. Dare one suggest a guest lecture by Günter Grass on the heroism of the SS at the Eastern Front?
What drives your ordinary Brit to play Nazi on the weekend? One participant suggests that some just ‘like the dark side’. As usual, ‘the dark side’ seems a lot more likable when you focus less on the dark side of it, though. Unsurprisingly, shootings of civilians do not appear to be very popular at these games… Or is it the fascination with defeat, as is suggested in this German news article on the same topic? The old “we live such hectic lives, with so many responsibilities, so of course we need a spanking every once in a while” cliché. You might want to check with your therapist for alternative treatment…
But surely there are re-enactment groups in Germany as well? Apparently there are, but aside from the danger of attracting actual neo-Nazis, there are also legal obstacles: display of Nazi -symbols/-greetings/-uniforms etc is illegal in Germany. As a result, some of these groups move to Lithuania or the Netherlands for the re-enactment of battle scenes. Which, the article dryly adds, are the authentic locations anyway.