Jewish Council condemns Nazi re-enactors in Auckland park

Days after a group of historical re-enactors dressed as German soldiers allegedly bullied a family in an Auckland park, the New Zealand Jewish Council has condemned the wearing of Nazi uniforms.

An anonymous man says when his upset wife confronted the men in Glenbrook Vintage Railway on Sunday, she was told: "It's history - if you don't like it piss off."

But that's not the view taken by the Jewish Council. President Stephen Goodman has condemned re-enactments of the Nazi military because of its historical implications.

"Our major concern with re-enactments is the glorification of the Nazis, and the implication that their actions were valid in an historical context," he told Newshub. 

"This is not acceptable to those that suffered under the Nazis including Jews, gypsies, gays and the disabled. It also shows no respect for those New Zealanders that fought against the tyranny."

Niel Kruger from the Historical Reenactment Society of New Zealand (HRS) says the re-enactors were dressed as German infantrymen rather than members of the National Socialist Party, and therefore it was inaccurate to say they were dressed as Nazis.

However photos taken of the re-enactors showed they were wearing symbols such as swastikas and the Reichsadler eagle, which historian Tony Wright says means they were portraying the political beliefs of the Third Reich - and it's therefore fair to say they were dressed as Nazis.

Mr Kruger has not responded to the Jewish Council's statement.

Photos from past HRS events show re-enactors wearing swastikas and the Reichsadler eagle.
Photos from past HRS events show re-enactors wearing swastikas and the Reichsadler eagle. Photo credit: The Historical Reenactment Society of New Zealand / Facebook

The recreational wearing of Nazi uniforms and insignia is a controversial topic, with many divided on whether or not it's acceptable in certain contexts.

Prince Harry was widely condemned in 2005 when he wore a swastika armband to a dress-up party, yet multiple costume outlets in New Zealand stock Nazi costumes available for sale or hire.

Auckland retailer Fantasy Costume Hire offers a costume called 'Nazi Officer', which consists of a military jacket, hat and swastika armband. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile Elite Costume Hire in Rosedale stocks an Adolf Hitler costume, the model for which is pictured giving the 'Sieg Heil' salute. It's unclear if the costume includes the dictator's signature moustache.

Karina Skorikova, costume stylist for Elite Costume Hire, says most customers hire their Hitler costume for film or theatre productions "to teach the young generation how horrific it was to Holocaust Jewish victims".

"We don't get into the political side of things," she told Newshub, adding that the costume is currently in stock and available for hire.

Mr Goodman says the use of Nazi costumes for educational purposes is a "far more acceptable context than others", as society must learn from the past in order not to allow the same atrocities to be committed.

However he added that the Jewish Council "can't say it makes us that happy", and is concerned by outlets selling Nazi memorabilia and costumes for recreational use.

"While not illegal in New Zealand, it is offensive that people want to make a profit out of the suffering of others."

Germany prohibits the use of symbols of 'unconstitutional organisations' outside the contexts of art, science, research or teaching. While the law doesn't name individual symbols, the swastika, the Reichsadler and the double-S insignia of the Schutzstaffel have all been banned from public display.

Mr Goodman says the Council wouldn't actively push for a similar law in New Zealand because of the complications and exceptions that would inevitably arise.

"It's a delicate balancing act because you still want to promote free speech, and in many ways this is a free speech issue."

He says the Jewish Council is more concerned on moral grounds about companies or individuals making a profit from the Holocaust.

"You have to take it on a case-by-case basis."

The Council has had several run-ins with TradeMe over the sale of World War II memorabilia, most of which resulted in the online marketplace withdrawing the items.

It's illegal to sell Nazi artefacts in several European countries. Ebay banned the items from their website in 2001.


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