You know, I’ve heard of Civil War re-enactors, but Nazi re-enactors?

From The Atlantic:

wiking_resized.jpg

That second guy from the (far) Reich?  Yep, that’s Richard Iott—dressed in a SS uniform… with, a bunch of Nazi re-enactors.

Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott’s participation in the Wiking group is not mentioned on his campaign’s website, and his name and photographs were removed from the Wiking website.

When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. "No, absolutely not," he said. "In fact, there’s a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you’ll find that on almost any reenactment website. It’s purely historical interest in World War II."

Iott says the group chose the Wiking division in part because it fought on the Eastern Front, mainly against the Russian Army, and not U.S. or British soldiers. The group’s website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the "twisted" nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism.

So, is it okay to dress like a Nazi so long as it’s only the ones who invaded Russia?

Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. "These guys don’t know their history," said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of "Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division, 1933-45," which chronicles an SS division. "They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred."

….

The actual Wiking unit has a history as grisly as that of other Nazi divisions. In her book "The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945," Eleonore Lappin, the noted Austrian historian, writes that soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March and April 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

Did Iott withdraw from the group and have it scrub all references of his members due to his campaign?  No, but the actual reason is kind of worse:

Iott says he does not recall exactly when he joined the Wiking group (his name appears on a unit roster as far back as 2003), but did so with his son "as a father-son bonding thing." He says his name and pictures were removed from the Wiking website not out of concern that they would harm his political career, but because he quit the group three years ago, after his son lost interest.

After some reflection, Iott realized his participation might offend… veterans groups.  Jews?  Not so much….

In a follow-up email today, Iott seemed at pains to address concerns that his conduct may have alienated veterans groups but made no specific mention of possible offense to Jews or human rights groups: "Never, in any of my reenacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war. In fact, I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, and my respect of the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life."

Wow…. I’m speechless.

[UPDATE:]  According to the Toledo Blade, Bill Maher covered this on his show as well.  Oh, and the biggest paper in the district covered it as well.

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  • I don’t believe Iott is a neo-nazi or an anti-Semite. Sure playing solder and running in the woods is fun (for some). Being the bad guy has its appeal too, like playing the confederates in civil war enactment and nobody usually accuses those folks of being racists or pro-slavery. It is sort of like acting. However, I question his sensitivity and judgment be cause of this. I mean, come on, he wants to be a politician and still he screws around like this. Yeah, definitely lousy judgement and not somebody we want in congress.

  • Modern: Don’t forget, Rich Iott also does not support renewal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. http://www.buckeyestateblog.com/rich_iott_republicantea_party_candidate_refuses_to_support_1964_civil_rights_act

  • Steve, will you stop with the reasonableness? Jesus, man!

  • Reasonableness? When is it reasonable to dress up as an SS officer? From any SS unit? Let alone a unit with a documented track record of Holocaust atrocities? Maybe you should dress up as one for Halloween, see how folks react.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention OH-09: Marcy Kaptur re-elected. Tea Bag Opponent played Weekend Nazi… no, really! -- Topsy.com()

  • To those not seriously deluded by the silly season it was probably quite clear that I was referring to the reasonableness of Goldberg and not Iott.

  • Alan

    Why on earth would interest in **military history** of war cause one to be suspect of **ideological affinity**? There is a name for that, which used to be “McCarthyism” except that McCarthyism often concerned those who later were shown to be actually involved in aiding the Soviet Union in the cold war (e.g., the editor of the New Republic who was revealed to have been an “agent of influence” of the Soviets and who had a Swiss account filled with monies paid by the USSR for his service to “international peace”). By contrast, here you have a guy doing re-enactments of **battles** (did they re-enact killing Jews? would anybody be happy if they did? That is the thing that would be WACKO). Interest in battles and their re-enactment is common to many interested in military history, strategy, and tactics. It has nothing to do with ideological affinity. Someone may be a great commander who is morally or politically wicked and destructive. I do not need to favor the Carthaginian tendency to offer up infant sacrifice to be interested in Hannibal’s strategy in the battle of Cannae; I do not need to be an apologist of Soviet Communism to be interested in the Soviet strategy in their victory over the Germans at Kursk; I do not need to be a pro-Nazi to be interested in German strategy on the Eastern Front; one need not be a proponent of Napoleonic politics to be interested in the battle of Waterloo or other Napoleonic battles; etc. ad infinitum. But I guess that battle re-enactment is something that is not intelligible to people who have no knowledge of military history or strategy, and who accordingly can’t imagine it save as expressive of political viewpoints. That is stupid and crazy and politically mean-spirited: but hey, this is about *re-electing* Marcy, and so, that is OK: sort of like voting for “health” reform in a bill that nobody had read, and that was against the clear will of the majority of the American people. Smearing an opponent as a *Nazi* when he isn’t one is just politics as usual, isn’t it?–And as it proves to be helpful in distracting people from what Kaptur actually *did*, pictures of a guy in a Nazi uniform are just to fun to pass on. Aren’t you guys the same ones, by the way, who think that long-term association with and support of racists is just fine? A la Obama and Wright (who talked about the Supreme Court of KKK?)? Actually contributing to someone who *is* racist is fine and good; but re-enacting military battles of those who were racist is evil whether you support or agree with them or not? I’m straining to find intellect in any of this: but then, it is coming from good liberals–alright already, I give up. 😉

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