Members of the Manchester Jewish community were outraged after participants in a World War II re-enactment dressed up as Nazis, donning swastikas and other fascist insignia.
One couple recounted how they were asked by a festival ‘actor’ to dress up as persecuted refugees by wearing yellow Stars of David and carrying battered suitcases, for this year’s event, the Manchester Evening News reported.
A number of participants at the annual Wartime Weekend at Ramsbottom and Bury railway stations were spotted impersonating Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Lutfwaffe and Adolph Hitler’s designated successor.
Others were seen wearing the symbol of the Wafen-SS.
“It’s very upsetting to see people in these uniforms. It is completely disrespectful to the six million Jews and other people who were killed at the hands of the Nazis,” said Merton Paul, a Jew who attended the event and was asked to dress as a refugee.
Prior to the event, officials at the East Lancashire Railway said that anyone who was found wearing SS uniforms would be asked to leave but that the standard uniform of the common German soldier, the Wehrmacht, would be allowed.
“We have made a very clear statement to the re-enactors. The swastika itself isn’t banned but what we have done is ask people not to wear the more offensive items such as items related to the SS, the death's head insignia and the Gestapo,” said the general manager of the railway, Andy Morris.
“The vast majority of people have recognised the concerns although there have been a few isolated incidents where our staff have asked people to remove or conceal certain badges,” he said. “If they are purists they are going to try to represent their costume in detail. However, everyone who was spoken to has been happy to comply with our requests.”
Morris stated that the dress code sought to balance offending the community with maintaining the historical accuracy of re-enactment events.
Officials from the Greater Manchester Jewish Representative Council [GJRC] last year lobbied organizers over the costumes and issued a complaint regarding offensive incidents, including one in which a jeep was draped in a red swastika flag.
Michelle Wiseman, a Bury councilor, who has campaigned on the issue, said she was dismayed that the uniforms were still not fully banned from the station premises.
“I’ve spoken with the East Lancashire Railway a number of times over the last years,” she asserted. “The situation we’ve got at the moment is a half-way house. If people are still going into the stations and the platforms wearing swastikas, I feel that’s just not on. The people who dress up like this don’t realise the offense they cause – not only to the Jewish people in Bury but to the many veterans who fought in the war and were in German prisoner of war camps.”
More than 10,000 people took part in the three-day Wartime Weekend at the volunteer-run steam railway, which runs from Heywood to Rawtenstall, the news station reported.