Auckland family outing goes awry as 'Nazis' run around park with guns

A man was horrified when his family outing at an Auckland tourist attraction was ruined by men dressed as "Nazis" and carrying guns.

The man, who didn't want to be identified, went with his wife and young children to Glenbrook Vintage Railway in south Auckland on Sunday.

"When we got there, we were shocked to see a number of people dressed in Nazi uniforms running around with guns... like they were doing war training of some sort," he told Newshub.

"When my wife said to one of the people in Nazi uniforms that they shouldn't be glorifying the Nazis, she was told 'it's history - if you don't like it piss off'."

He said there were about five men wearing the "Nazi" uniforms, and others wearing different uniforms.

"I find it horrific that these people don't seem to care that dressing as Nazis around trains and wagons is making light of the Holocaust."

The man said his children wanted to play on the playground, but once they saw the men with guns they became very frightened.

"They were laughing and making fun of my children, saying 'boo' and 'the bogey man's going to get you' after they had run back to us.

"If this is what they want to do on their own time on private property that's fine, but to basically have it pushed on your family is not cool at all."

The man said he tried to take pictures but was told not to by the impersonators, and felt "very intimidated".

The men are believed to be members of the Historical Reenactment Society of New Zealand (HRS), who were using the park to practise.

Niel Kruger from the HRS says he was unaware of any such incident at Sunday's training session.

He says HRS will investigate further and any of their members found to have harassed a member of the public will be stood down from participating for a period of time.

"We don't condone that at all...there will be repercussions."

He disputes the family's use of the term "Nazi", saying the re-enactors were dressed as "standard German infantry".

He says the phrase "Nazi" refers to a political party rather than a military unit, and that HRS does not re-enact any political groups.

However historian Tony Wright says if the re-enactors were wearing uniforms that displayed swastikas, the Reichsadler eagle or any other symbols of the Nazi regime, it's fair to say they were dressing up as Nazis.

"Any kind of Nazi imagery is portraying that political facet," he told Newshub. 

Several photos posted to the official HRS Facebook page, as well as images posted to private HRS groups, show re-enactors wearing uniforms bearing swastikas and the Reichsadler.

Photos showing HRS re-enactors wearing Nazi symbols including the swastika and the Reichsadler.
Photos showing HRS re-enactors wearing Nazi symbols including the swastika and the Reichsadler. Photo credit: Historical Reenactment Society / Facebook

Glenbrook Vintage Railway is a popular tourist attraction and heritage steam train railway south of Auckland, just out of Waiuku. The Railway is currently closed, set to reopen on Labour Weekend in October, but the park is still open.

Tim Kerwin, manager of the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, told Newshub the re-enactors' alleged behaviour on the premises is unacceptable.

He says HRS used the park on Sunday as a trial training session after approaching the Railway about practising there.

"They used to train out at MOTAT, and this is the first time they trained out here. But if this is what's happening, we don't want that because we're a family-friendly attraction."

Mr Kerwin says the HRS will not be invited back after Sunday's alleged incident, and has offered the family an apology for their distressing experience as well as a complimentary tour of the Railway when it reopens.

"We don't accept that behaviour at all. It's not the image we have."

He says the Railway has hosted successful military re-enactment events in the past, and if the men really were "glorifying the Nazis", he considers that "totally unacceptable".