Nottinghamshire World War Two event organisers defend 'problematic' Nazi presence

A woman wearing what appears to be a Hitler Youth uniform
A woman wearing what appears to be a Hitler Youth uniform -Credit:Spirit Of Wartime Sherwood/ Facebook

The organisers of a World War Two event in Nottinghamshire have defended the presence of people dressed as Nazis, which some described as "problematic". The Spirit of Wartime, which took place at Thoresby Park last weekend (May 18 and 19), aimed to show life in military camps "from the view of both Allied and Axis".

This included encampments for British, American and Nazi SS soldiers, the latter of which received fierce criticism on social media. Photographs from the event appeared to show several people dressed in various types of Nazi uniforms, with numerous Swastika flags displayed across the site

Visitors also said Nazi memorabilia was being sold from one stall, something organisers The Sherwood Forest Trust said it did not approve of. Professor Dr. Waitman W. Beorn, an expert in Holocaust history and assistant professor at Northumbria University, said there was "something problematic about normalising people hanging out in German uniforms".

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He criticised the wearing of outfits which appeared to resemble members of the Waffen-SS, Hitler Youth and concentration camp guards. "I'm not suggesting outlawing it. I support freedom of speech and expression," he said. "But there are some great WWII history events that don't allow German re-enactments.

"Those uniforms signify some of the most depraved criminality in human history. They're clearly not welcoming symbols.

"You have to be somewhat comfortable to spend that time and money on that hobby. If you loathe the Nazis why dress like them? Why spend a lot of money?

Dr Beorn described this woman's outfit as similar to that of a concentration camp guard
Dr Beorn described this woman's outfit as similar to that of a concentration camp guard -Credit:Spirit Of Wartime Sherwood/ Facebook

Dr Beorn said deciding to dress in the uniforms was the result of a "poor series of choices", adding: "You don't need people people dressed up as Nazis to talk about the Nazis.

"People shouldn't be comfortable dressing like the SS, they have to think about the message that sends." He added the inclusion of Swastika flags was unnecessary and appeared to be "a bit celebratory".

One anonymous visitor, who visited with her two children, said one of them had put on a helmet bearing a Swastika and saw a number of items on sale such as badges. "I felt really uncomfortable, there was a man basically dressed as Goebbels," she said.

"Some people are just too into it. I thought it would be a family friendly event." Patrick Candler, chief executive of the Sherwood Forest Trust, said Nazi re-enactors had been attending the event for years, and argued it was important for education.

"It's a World War Two re-enactment, you need to have both sides represented," he said. "We did this last year and had the same re-enactors. You need to have a balanced approach, the person who raised the issue is a historian so he will understand, we're going to have German and English people.

A group dressed in Waffen-SS uniforms
A group dressed in Waffen-SS uniforms -Credit:Spirit Of Wartime Sherwood/ Facebook

"For some people they don't like the 1940s and don't want to be reminded of it. Others are curious and this helps raise their awareness. We need to be alive to the fact that there are people in the world that have shall I say unhelpful views and brutal regimes."

Mr Chandler said no complaints were received from any of its nearly 8,000 visitors over the weekend and said organisers had consulted with a Holocaust centre in the lead up to the event. He "couldn't say" if there was Nazi items on sale.

"There may well have been a trader. I don't approve of the sale of German or Nazi memorabilia."

Visit Nottinghamshire, the county's tourist board, appeared to remove a promotional article of the event from its website after being contacted by Nottinghamshire Live. A spokesperson apologised for any offence that may have been caused.

The promotion of the event appears to have been removed from the Visit Nottinghamshire website
The promotion of the event appears to have been removed from the Visit Nottinghamshire website -Credit:Visit Nottinghamshire/ Google

"Visit Nottinghamshire have no affiliation with or influence over the event’s content, being neither the organiser nor the host venue," they said. "Our role was solely to promote it as part of our commitment to supporting local events and venues. We were not made aware of all the activities at this re-enactment event prior to these images circulating.

"Visit Nottinghamshire will never intentionally support or promote any event which causes offence, harm or division and apologises for any offence this may have caused. We will work closely with Thoresby Park and The Sherwood Forest Trust to ensure that all events we promote on their behalf align with our terms and conditions and membership agreement."