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Men who wore Nazi SS uniforms while attending a popular 1940s festival insisted they were not dressed as Germans and were instead depicting troops who fought against Stalin.
The men were wearing uniforms bearing swastikas and the Nazi ‘death’s head’ symbol at the event in Sheringham, Norfolk at the weekend.
They were also reportedly seen goose-stepping and performing the Nazi salute.
A spokesman for the group insisted that none of them ‘portrayed a German’ and that they instead were representing men from other European nations who joined Adolf Hitler’s SS to fight ‘against Stalin and communism during WWII’.
But German historian Robin Schaefer rubbished their apparent attempts to justify their choice of attire.
Speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘Yes some foreign SS members may have joined to fight Bolshevism but that doesn’t make them less Nazi or less guilty. It is complete cretinous b***s***.
‘I don’t even know why they bring that up as a defence, it doesn’t make any sense.’
Men who wore Nazi SS uniforms while attending a popular 1940s festival insisted they were not dressed as Germans and were instead depicting troops who fought against Stalin. Above: The men were confronted outside the Lobster pub in Sheringham
The group’s spokesman also claimed people were ‘shaking our hands’ and ‘wanting to take photos’ and added that ‘no one was upset or offended’.
But, speaking today, one of the organisers of the annual Sheringham 1940s Weekend said there were some ‘very, very upset people’, in the town, which he added has a small Jewish community.
Graham Deans said he asked the men to leave after receiving a number of complaints.
‘For their own safety, we escorted them out of town to avoid any confrontation, and they agreed to leave the town immediately,’ he told the BBC.
Trouble broke out when crowds of horrified locals confronted the men, who were seen marching ‘in unison’.
A statement from Norfolk Police said an officer came across a ‘confrontation in the High Street on Saturday during the festival.’
‘The officer intervened and quickly resolved the incident,’ it added.
‘One man reported being assaulted and this is being investigated further. No-one was injured during the incident.’
Witnesses said the group congregated outside The Lobster pub, where they were confronted by locals.
The men were from the ‘Eastern Front Living History Group’. A spokesman said yesterday: ‘We do battle re-enactments, displays and educational visits across the UK, raising money for charity for wounded soldiers so they can have artificial limbs.
‘We represent the western European nations that fought against Stalin and communism during WWII.
‘We were wearing Waffen-SS infantry uniforms displaying national shields and insignia of the countries portrayed.
‘Not one member of the group portrayed a German.
A spokesman for the group who attended in Nazi-style uniforms admitted members wore Waffen-SS infantry uniforms but claimed they did not portray Germans
‘The uniforms were supplied by Germany, as were the weapons, to the foreign volunteers from 1941 – 1945. They’re as close to authentic as you can get.
‘As a group we’ve been attending the Sheringham 1940’s weekend for four or five years running and never had any problems before.
‘We were walking down Sheringham high street and people were stopping us, shaking our hands and wanting to take photos.
‘It was a brilliant vibe. There was no one upset or offended at all. It was good-natured fun as it should be.’
However, the unnamed man claimed he was then ‘attacked’ by a man who was ‘foaming at the mouth’ and ‘screaming about Jewish persecution’.
‘I said to him I understood his point of view, but what we portray is a million miles from the point which was upsetting him,’ he added.
‘As a group we do not tolerate any politics or any form of religious persecution. We simply won’t have it. That behaviour disgusts us and tarnishes what we do.
A spokesman for festival organisers claimed the incident had been a ‘misunderstanding’
‘We were not asked to leave. We were leaving anyway to go back our campsite. We felt it was the right thing to do.’
But historian Mr Schaefer said the claim that there was a difference between the German units of the SS and the foreign legions is false.
‘There is absolutely no difference between the foreign legions of the SS and the German SS,’ he said.
‘I’ve spoken to a lot of now dead Waffen SS members. I can tell you that after the war, that was one of their main lines of defence.
‘They said they only joined up to fight against Communism and said Nazi politics did not interest them.
‘Of course that was complete tosh. Like all other Waffen SS troops they committed atrocities. There is absolutely no difference.’
He added: ‘More importantly, it does not matter if they are Waffen SS or not. Wearing the uniform of a Wehrmacht soldier would be just bad.
‘You can’t separate the two things. You can’t just put on a Nazi uniform and not be a Nazi.’
His comments came after fellow historian Guy Walters slammed the group.
Mr Walters wrote on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter: ‘People who dress like comedy SS clowns from ‘Allo ‘Allo teach us nothing, absolutely nothing, about the Second World War. They’re just flabby Nazi wannabes, who deserve the utmost ridicule.’
Mike Keller, who lost family members in the Holocaust and whose father escaped Nazi Germany in the Kindertransport, was among those appalled by the sight of the uniforms.
He said: ‘It was a lovely family atmosphere and very friendly, when suddenly from nowhere there were 10-15 men dressed in authentic SS uniform literally marching in unison.
‘It was deeply offensive. These men were not milling about and blending in among people. They were marching and making a demonstration. It was frightening.
‘My father was from a Jewish family who lost his parents and brothers and sisters in death camps. He was fortunate to escape with my uncle via Kindertransport, so having to see this with my son was mortally offensive and a disgraceful act.’
A spokesman for festival organisers said German uniforms are permitted, as long as they do not ‘promote the Nazis’.
He claimed the incident had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and that the group was there to ‘commemorate the German people’.
Pictured are people with guns as part of the battle reenactments by the Eastern Front Living History Group
But an updated statement issued on the group’s website said the spokesman’s comments ‘are not representative of the Committee’s views about offence caused by a group in SS uniforms’.
It added: ‘Our volunteer marshals immediately took action with the help of the police and our volunteers escorted the group out of the town.
‘We are working collaboratively with Sheringham Town Council, the police and NNR [North Norfolk Railways] to reflect on what happened and prevent any future disruption to this event.’
The Waffen-SS did recruit hundreds of thousands of non-Germans into its ranks, including some British soldiers who had been captured.
The British Free Corps existed from 1943 until 1945. It included former SAS member Douglas Berneville-Claye.
He became a captain in the SS and was the first British officer to serve in the unit.