MINNEAPOLIS — The organizer of a World War II-themed party that included Nazi flags and men in SS uniforms apologized after a photo of the event in the US provoked outrage on the Internet.
Scott Steben had said that the January dinner was a Christmas party and an exercise for period actors. But in an apology reported by the Star Tribune, Steben said his group understands that some items displayed at the dinner “have made people feel uncomfortable.” He added: “That was not our intent.”
City Pages had reported the event, saying that members of a World War II reenactment group, dressed in SS uniforms and surrounded by Nazi flags, attended a Third Reich-themed Christmas dinner last December at a Minneapolis restaurant.
The organization has held the event for 16 years running, the last six of which were at the Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit restaurant, a participant at the event said.
“All of the German [reenactment] groups in Minnesota have a Christmas party because we don’t typically have events going on in the winter,” Jon Boorom, a member of the WWII Historical Re-enactment Society Inc said. “It’s just like any club that has a party. Because they dress up like Germans from World War II, it’s cool to go to a German restaurant, eat German food, and drink German beer.”
Boorom maintained the event was like “a Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts” and was unrelated to any neo-Nazi activity or political affiliation. The society does extensive background checks on members to ensure they have no racist or anti-Semitic views, he said.
“If you wear a German uniform or a Nazi uniform, it’s not like you’re saying, ‘I think Hitler was super cool’ or ‘I hate Jews’ or ‘I hate gays’ or ‘I hate Democrats,’” Boorom said. “You’re not there because you believe in what Hitler stood for — you’re there to educate people about history, and a lot of that is so people don’t forget.”
However, beyond the purported educational value of the event, Boorom explained the allure — its appeal to base aspects of the personality.
“It’s the same as wanting to be the bad guy when you’re playing cowboys and Indians. There’s an attraction to the bad side,” he added.
The WWII Historical Re-enactment Society denied its connection to the party.
“The WWII Historical Reenactment Society Inc. has never hosted, supported, or financed any events, or dinners at the Minneapolis based Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit Restaurant,” the organization said in a Facebook post.