Since when is dressing up as an SS officer proper dinner attire?

I was shocked this morning to read about this group of WWII re-enactors having their annual party at German restaurant in Minneapolis.  I wanted to slap one of these guys upside that head and yell, “What were you thinking?!!”

I don’t have a problem with actors dressed as Nazis.  In fact, what would a production of The Sound of Music be without the Von Trapp family fleeing from Nazis?  Who else would be scarier to find melting on a deserted island than evil SS officers opening the Arc of the Covenant for the first time in Raiders of the Lost Arc? And would the The Producers be as hilarious without its dancing Hitler?

What doesn’t make sense to me though is a dinner in which people are celebrating with their WWII reenactment buddies, dressed in Nazi uniforms, and eating schnitzel in a room adorned by swastikas.  How is this ok?

When asked why this group was holding this event, a party attendee stated, “All of the German [re-enactment] groups in Minnesota have a Christmas party because we don’t typically have events going on in the winter,” Boorom says. “It’s just like any club that has a party. Because they dress up like Germans from World War II, it’s cool to go to a German restaurant, eat German food, and drink German beer.” (Citypages.com)

My friends and I at Frühlingsfest.

My friends and I pretending to be German at Frühlingsfest.

Living in Germany I can pretend to be German whenever I want.  I can braid my hair, wear a Dirndl, swing a stein of beer, and eat giant pretzels to my heart’s content.  In June, I will paint my face in Schwartz-Rot-Gold, wear my Weltmeisterschaft tricot, and root for the home team in the World Cup.  But I would NEVER pretend to be German by dressing up as an SS officer.  There is nothing “cool” about Nazis.

To dress in Nazi uniforms, to yell “Heil Hitler,” or to hang the Nazi flag is strictly verboten here.  You would be quickly arrested and charged under the German criminal code, section 86a.

In America, citizens cling to their 1st Amendment rights.  And in America your 1st Amendment rights allow you to make stupid choices; like throwing a Nazi dress up party for example.  But if you make this kind of choice, you should expect the backlash of public opinion.  Both Germans and Jews find this kind of role playing disgraceful; my guess is that most Americans find it disgraceful too.

In researching this event, I came across this interview with Mel Brooks in Der Spiegel from 2006.  I love what he says about how comedy can “rob Hitler of his posthumous power.”

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7 replies

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I was disgusted when I moved to Germany and realised there was a day here in Frankfurt where Nazi supporters could “celebrate” out in public. I understand they have to be very careful about freedom of speech but seriously… not ok in my books.

    • Neo-Nazis can have demonstrations here but there are still limits. You are right for the need to have freedom of expression. Unfortunately we just have to witness people being stupid.

  2. I just…there are no words! In the same way that I get angry at people who focus on Japan being “sexually weird” I really hate how Germany = WW2 for so many people. There are so many other amazing ways to celebrate German culture.

    • I am just blown away by the idea that these guys think it’s fun to get together and act like Nazis. Yeah, yeah, they keep reiterating that they are just actors, they are promoting education of World War II. I think there are a lot better ways to promote the history of the war than partying down in your SS costume.

  3. I’m not at all advocating what this group is doing, but I will play Devil’s Advocate for a moment:

    Why is it that you’re okay with people dressing up as Nazis for movies which serve as your entertainment, but not okay with a very small group of people dressing up as Nazis for their own entertainment? If we’re to take them at their word and all they want to do and order a few beer steins from blonde bar wenches while eating sour kraut, is it really hurting anyone?

    Now, if I happened to be a regular at that restaurant because I simply enjoyed the food and atmosphere and happened to be there on a night where those guys were in fact shouting “Heil!” and whatnot, then yeah, that’d be crossing the line and I’d likely get the heck out of Dodge.

    But your post doesn’t exactly confirm that they do that, I don’t think.

    I remember when I was in the fifth grade and teacher from a neighbouring classroom burst through the doors holding up a religion textbook. He flipped to the rear cover where some student (presumably) had scrawled a crude swastika in ballpoint pen. He proceeded to SCREAM at a bunch of 11 year-olds saying, “We fought a WAR where MILLIONS died to stamp this sort of thing OUT!” He was livid!

    And yes, he was right. That war happened. And just about everyone, believe it or not, has a personal tie to it. My Grandfather was Air Force. “My” (would-be) Grandfather” was killed by German mustard gas in the trenches of WWI.

    But even at that young age I remember thinking, “Yeah, but…it’s just a symbol, you know?”

    I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions like that, where, because of a horrible event, something because an instant no-go for ALL time. It needs context. Kind of like how “Columbine” or “September 11th” will never mean what they used to, you know?

    So, your movies have context, right?

    “Sorry, we’re closed!”

    “Oh no, frauline. Vee are…not sirsty!” (Evil Laugh)

    Cartoon characters.

    I view these jokers no differently. Just an isolated bunch of complete morons who have no problem being photographed in that kind of dress….probably not even considering that if it ends up on social media and a prospective employer sees it, they’re finished.

    My point? You’re “blown away”? Really? Why even give a crap? They’re idiots. Hard to get mad at idiots.

  4. Blown away…no. Shocked…yes. But not in the way you seem to be thinking. Shocked that people would be stupid enough to use an excuse like “its fun to dress up”. Really? I’m shocked that these people didn’t think that there would be a backlash.

    Why write about it if I’m not “blown away”? I live in Germany. I teach about Germany. It’s what I do.

  5. I am from Minneapolis and I have spent many summer evenings in the Gasthof’s beer garden. However, since the event took place they have lost a lot of business. My friends and I have decided never to return to their restaurant, as have many others. The behavior of the restaurant owner and the attendees to this event is not reflective as a whole of our city/

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