The organizer of a World War II-themed party that included Nazi flags and men in SS uniforms apologized on Wednesday after a photo of the event in Minneapolis provoked outrage on the Internet, reports The Associated Press (AP).
The Nazi-themed party, which was held at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit, a popular German restaurant and bar in northeast Minneapolis, was condemned by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC).
The Minneapolis-based KMSP-TV reported on Tuesday that JCRC’s Executive director Steve Hunegs sent a letter to Gasthof's owner, which read, in part, "Glorification and/or celebration of Nazi Germany and its military would appear to be incongruous with the nature of a family restaurant and its surrounding neighborhood."
The dinner also featured Nazi banners which hung on the walls of the German restaurant. The dinner was held back in January but only came to light this week when a photo from the party was first posted online by the alternative weekly City Pages, reported AP.
Jon Boorom, a WWII Historical Re-enactment Society Inc. member, was quoted as having told City Pages the re-enactment is somewhat like a "Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts."
"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 said, according to KMSP. "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."
Boorom also said members of the re-enactment groups are given extensive background checks and no neo-Nazis are allowed to participate. He also insisted they're not there because they "believe in what Hitler stood for," but rather, to educate those that take part in the events.
The party’s organizer, Scott Steben, said on Wednesday, according to the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper, that his group understands that some items displayed at the dinner "have made people feel uncomfortable."
He said, "That was not our intent."
"We are a historical re-enactment and professional actor society dedicated to promoting understanding of World War II. In no way are we or any of our members affiliated with groups that promote the subjugation of anyone," the statement read.
Mario Pierzchalski, owner of the restaurant where the party was held, told the Star Tribune he has hosted the party for six years but will not do so again. He defended the partygoers, who included men dressed as Italian soldiers and one as an American soldier.
"Those people are very peaceful people," Pierzchalski said. "They are not any politicians or any against politics or against the parties here. They are just actors."