WWII re-enactment group who dress up as Nazi soldiers that fought on Western Front in 1944 are condemned by campaigners as ‘insensitive and grossly offensive’ and are ‘trivialising genocidal history’
- Nazi military reenactments condemned for ‘making light’ of WWII war crimes
- Group’s claim to distance itself from far-right politics is dismissed as ‘sick joke’
- Reenactment group argues it promotes ‘authenticity’ of Second World War
- Group is based on a WWII Panzer division which fought the Allies
A World War Two re-enactment group has been condemned as a ‘sick joke’ and ‘grossly offensive’ for dressing up as Nazi soldiers as a ‘hobby’.
Opponents said the group made light of the horrific crimes of Nazi Germany during the Second World War and the Holocaust.
The 304 Panzergrenadier Regiment, based in the South of England, takes part in reenactments and history events wearing Second World War German army uniforms with swastika insignias.
The group’s website says the regiment is committed to ‘authenticity’ and offers members ‘great experiences and camaraderie you will struggle to find in any other hobby.’
Critics condemned the group of ‘trvialising’ the murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups, including Roma and disabled people, by the Nazis
The regiment don full Nazi military uniform and march in military reenactments under the names of German soldiers
The reenactment group is based on one of Hitler’s most prolific Panzer divisions, which fought against the Allies in the invasions of Poland, France and Russia
Photos of the group show its members in full Nazi uniform and children handling Nazi weaponry.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, slammed the 304 regiment for glorifying the mass murder of millions of Jews and other minority groups by the Nazi regime.
She said: ‘We are always greatly disturbed when people make light of the horrific crimes suffered by Jewish people and other minority groups such as Roma and Sinti people during World War II.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, condemned the group as ‘insensitive and grossly offensive’
‘Nazis and their sympathisers were responsible for the murder of six million Jews and millions of other individuals – solely because of their faith, sexuality or disability.
‘Any attempt to revisit, distort or trivialise that genocidal history should be condemned.
‘It is insensitive and grossly offensive to portray Nazis in a way that demeans the suffering [endured] by their victims.’
The 304 Panzergrenadier Regiment claims to reject racism and far-right politics, and bans its members from doing the Nazi salute or flying the Swastika – the symbol of Hitler’s fascist state.
The unit said it sought to ‘honour the fallen soldiers of all nations of WWII.’
However, Dr Dave Rich, the director of policy at the Community Security Trust, said the military reenactments could not be seperated from the horrific crimes of Nazi Germany.
He said: ‘It is unfathomable why anybody would want to put on a World War Two German uniform and pretend to be part of an army that committed numerous war crimes and devastated much of Europe.
‘It is simply not possible to separate this from the genocide and mass murder committed by Nazi Germany in the lands that the German army conquered for Hitler.
The group take part in history events and re-enactments it says adds to the ‘authenticity and to the preservation of WW2 history’
‘For this group to then claim they do not condone any right-wing or racist activity is a sick joke.’
Comments on a recruitment post for the 304 regiment include people saying they ‘had a blast’ with the group.
One said: ‘Had a great time last year so let’s hope this year is even better.’
The 304 regiment is based on the Nazi 2nd Panzer Division, formed in 1935 under Hitler’s rearming efforts.
The division took part in the brutal invasion of Poland which sparked the Second World War after Britain declared war on Germany.
It is estimated between five and six million Poles were killed during the Second World War – almost a fifth of the country’s population.
The 2nd Panzer Division was also involved in the invasion of France and helped to push British forces to the evacuation at Dunkirk.
The group takes part in various events around the South of England, and is recruiting new members for ‘great experiences and camaraderie’
Members are charged £30 to join the reenactment regiment with members buying their own outfits and equipment for joining the group
The armoured unit was part of Operation Barbarossa – the Nazi invasion of Russia – before being sent to Normandy in 1943 to defend against an Allied invasion.
The division took part in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of the Rhine as Hitler’s armies tried to stop the Allies’ advance into Europe before Germany was finally defeated.
The 304 Panzergrenadier Regiment claims it wants to accurately portray military history ‘with respect, both for the soldiers and for the public who come to see us.’
The unit said on its website: ‘The following guidelines demonstrate that we will not tolerate nor condone any right-wing or racist activity.
‘Our duty is to honour the fallen soldiers of all nations of WWII.
‘Members of the unit will not, nor ever have been, members of any subversive, fascist or anti-Semitic organisation.’
The 304 Panzergrenadier Regiment was contacted for comment.
The Nazis’ concentration and extermination camps: The factories of death used to slaughter millions
Auschwitz-Birkenau, near the town of Oswiecim, in what was then occupied Poland
Auschwitz-Birkenau was a concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazis during World War Two.
The camp, which was located in Nazi-occupied Poland, was made up of three main sites.
Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a combined concentration and extermination camp and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labour camp, with a further 45 satellite sites.
Auschwitz, pictured in 1945, was liberated by Soviet troops 76 years ago on Wednesday after around 1.1million people were murdered at the Nazi extermination camp
Auschwitz was an extermination camp used by the Nazis in Poland to murder more than 1.1 million Jews
Birkenau became a major part of the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’, where they sought to rid Europe of Jews.
An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, of whom at least 1.1 million died – around 90 percent of which were Jews.
Since 1947, it has operated as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which in 1979 was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Treblinka, near a village of the same name, outside Warsaw in Nazi-occupied Poland
Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labor before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death.
Only a select few – mostly young, strong men, were spared from immediate death and assigned to maintenance work instead.
Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labor before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death
The death toll at Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz. In just 15 months of operation – between July 1942 and October 1943 – between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were murdered in its gas chambers.
Exterminations stopped at the camp after an uprising which saw around 200 prisoners escape. Around half of them were killed shortly afterwards, but 70 are known to have survived until the end of the war
Belzec, near the station of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland
Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard.
Polish, German, Ukrainian and Austrian Jews were all killed there. In total, around 600,000 people were murdered.
The camp was dismantled in 1943 and the site was disguised as a fake farm.
Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard
Sobibor, near the village of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland
Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate.
Jews from Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union were killed in three gas chambers fed by the deadly fumes of a large petrol engine taken from a tank.
An estimated 200,000 people were killed in the camp. Some estimations put the figure at 250,000.
This would place Sobibor as the fourth worst extermination camp – in terms of number of deaths – after Belzec, Treblinka and Auschwitz.
Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate
The camp was located about 50 miles from the provincial Polish capital of Brest-on-the-Bug. Its official German name was SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor.
Prisoners launched a heroic escape on October 14 1943 in which 600 men, women and children succeeded in crossing the camp’s perimeter fence.
Of those, only 50 managed to evade capture. It is unclear how many crossed into allied territory.
Chelmno (also known as Kulmhof), in Nazi-occupied Poland
Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany’s camps built specifically for extermination.
It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945.
Between 152,000 and 200,000 people, nearly all of whom were Jews, were killed there.
Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany’s camps built specifically for extermination. It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945
Majdanek (also known simply as Lublin), built on outskirts of city of Lublin in Nazi-occupied Poland
Majdanek was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942.
It had seven gas chambers as well as wooden gallows where some victims were hanged.
In total, it is believed that as many as 130,000 people were killed there.
Majdanek (pictured in 2005) was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942