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super-reporter John Sweeney needs help, says
historian David Irving (above). Sweeney sees
moustaches everywhere. A few minutes before
this young Oxford University student asked for a
photo with him Irving was filmed -- without
invitation -- by Sweeney and his roving team at the
Beltring militaria show. David Irving had a
moustache, says Sweeney. What had he smoking? "He
was sporting a slight toothbrush moustache like a
white version of Robert Mugabe -- a comparison I
did not care to mention." The rest of his report
was of similar accuracy. High Court judges too
sometimes hallucinate, says Irving, and see things
in books that aren't really there at
London Sunday, August 26, 2007
have ways to make you shiver
THE last time Fred
Roberts met Nazi troops it was on D-Day and he
did not like the cut of their jib. Six decades on,
the old soldier came across them again in a field
in Kent: "I don't like it. I still feel a little
I know just a little how the Normandy veteran
might feel. The SS Leibstandarte Adolf
Hitler (LAH) division were strutting their stuff at
the War and Peace Show at Beltring in Kent -- it's
Glastonbury with panzers -- when I bowled up to
The SS LAH are not the real thing, of course,
but make-believe Nazi soldiers in a reenactment
society called the Second Battle Group who spend
their weekends, along with second world war
American GIs and British reenactors, going
"bang--bang you're dead".
The event looks like good muddy fun, but is all
The SS LAH, for example, was originally Hitler's
bodyguard, Aryan supermen to the heels of their
jackboots. So when you have got the whole of the
second world war to play with, why do 200-odd
mainly British men choose to impersonate fanatics?
Why be weekend Nazis?
One re-enactor who plays a Tommy from the
Leicestershire Regiment said the British were
outnumbered 10 to one by the Nazis and speculated
that some "like the dark side".
All the SS uniforms are kosher, so to speak, but
Second Battle Group's website does not mention the
war crimes of the Waffen SS in general or the SS
LAH in particular. In one example, the SS LAH took
heavy casualties in the fighting around Dunkirk in
1940 when the retreating British did not fold. So
Hitler's chosen lined up 80 British prisoners of
war from the Royal Warwickshire and Cheshire
regiments and shot them dead.
I asked one blond, floppy-haired Aryan specimen,
an SS LAH soldier standing in a scout car, about
the bad history. The sinister lightning flash runes
of the SS were clearly visible on the lapel of his
- SS Floppy: "We don't represent the SS as
such. We're an armoured division."
- Sweeney: "But the SS was a Nazi fighting
machine that went around killing people."
- SS Floppy: "I don't know about Nazi -- I'm
Jewish." He did not volunteer the name of his
- Sweeney: "But the SS did commit massacres.
If you're going to do this you should do it
SS Floppy called out to an officer on the other
side of the scout car for help, not realising the
full magic of television. Our sound man moved his
boom microphone and picked up every word: "F******
get rid of him, Glen, because I'm going to f******
whack him otherwise."
Oh dear, it must have been the SS at a bad
The more they were asked why they chose to
reenact an Aryan killing machine, the more the SS
turned and ran away from me. Finally I caught up
with Sturmscharfuhrer -- which is something
like Brown Owl, only more so -- Glen Swallow.
- Sweeney: "You've decided not to talk to the
BBC -- why's that?"
- Sturmscharfuhrer Swallow: "No
- Sweeney: "You're wearing SS uniform -- why
do you choose to reenact a Nazi racial
supremacist fighting machine?"
- Swallow: "No comment." Sweeney: "Why is it
impossible in England in the 21st century to
answer my questions?"
- Swallow: "No comment." A colleague with a
hidden camera caught up with Swallow outside the
beer tent in the small hours of the morning
where he was chatting to a reenactor from
another SS group.
Swallow appeared to have been in the British
forces and was happy to comment about black
soldiers -- "all these f****** herberts out of
Africa: they're a waste of time"; and about the
"PC" culture inside the British Army, and
The SS LAH and Second Battle Group say that they
have no truck with racism or extremism and will be
conducting an internal investigation.
This year the War and Peace Show attracted
record numbers -- 100,000, including Roberts -- to
look at military vehicles, savour the bang-bang and
check out the uniforms of yesteryear.
The Living History community are, on the whole,
glorious British -- and some European --
eccentrics. Most do the second world war. However,
some of what goes on is very strange indeed.
Among the show's 1,000 stalls are some where the
public can pick up Nazi knickknacks. One trader,
from Belgium, was selling a "concentration camp
trolley" from Belsen for £550. When
challenged, he said: "That's just a wooden thing
with iron on it. That trolley didn't kill anybody.
It's not a bomb or a bullet. It's just a
When it was pointed out to him that the trolley
was advertised as "a concentration camp trolley
marked SS from Belsen",
he replied: "There's a difference between politics
and collecting.I don't do politics."
Someone who does is
David Irving, the historian who last year
sentence in Austria
for Holocaust denial. He was sporting a slight
toothbrush moustache like a white version of
Robert Mugabe -- a comparison I did not
care to mention.
He was at a stall selling his books, believed by
many people, including a judge in a High Court
case, to deny the Holocaust. He offered a
handshake. I hesitated and shook -- to be told I
had now shaken the hand that had shaken the hands
of more people who had shaken the hand of Hitler
than anyone else.
Rex Cadman, organiser of the War and
Peace Show, later said that Irving had not been
invited by him or anybody involved with the show
and he would not encourage the attendance of "a man
whose views are so abhorrent". He added that the
show's organisers have always tried to police the
stalls and he regretted "the unacceptable
stupidity" of a tiny minority.
Weekend Nazis: John Sweeney reports tomorrow
Monday, August 27, 2007 on BBC1 at 8.30pm
Copyright 2007 Times