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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:04 pm 
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Location: South Africa
We recently started a re-enactment group down here in SA, and when I say started, I mean from scratch. No disillusioned members from other groups, no outside influences - everything is being built from the ground up.

Naturally, one of the first questions that came up was: "Who are we representing?" Obviously, it was not as simple as saying "Germans" - it could be Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarines or Waffen-SS. The choice at the most is split between Heer and Waffen-SS, but more on that later. Below THAT layer, it was a case of "Well, which division then?"

And here we ran into some trouble. The Jewish community here in SA is extremely sensitive about anything relating to WW2 Germany, to the point that a fellow re-enactor, who appeared at an museum fair in an SS officer impression, was verbally assault by Jewish members of the public. These same members of the public then went ahead and dragged the matter into the media - newspaper and radio - which resulted in even more fallout.

Now, for someone wanting to do a Waffen-SS impression, the big problem down here is that none of the W-SS divisions survived the war with a clean slate when it comes to war crimes and atrocities against civilians from the occupied zone. Yes, saner minds know the difference between re-enacting and idolizing - but those saner minds are hardly common. I do NOT want the future of my unit, and the sport as a whole, to be dragged through the mud because of associated atrocities committed years ago.

So, in a round-about manner, I get to my point. After consulting wikipedia (by no means the most comprehensive of sources), we decided to create two fictional units - based as much as possible on existing units, but without any of their associated negative histories. The units are from the Heer and Waffen-SS respectively:
- Heer: 314th Jäger Division
- W-SS: 40th SS Volunteer Division 'Freistaat'

The choice to do a Jäger unit for Heer was based on the terrain that we have available here in SA for events: derelict buildings and hilly, wooded areas - theaters for which the light infantry units were supposedly better outfitted.

The W-SS choice, 40th 'Freistaat', goes back to the Anglo-Boer War: most Afrikaners still have a deep-seated distrust, if not downright hatred, for the British after their atrocities during said war, and it is easy to imagine a volunteer unit rising from their ranks to join the W-SS. The name, Freistaat, is the German translation of the Afrikaans 'Vrystaat', or Free State, one of the areas of most resistance to the English during the Anglo-Boer War. The division number, 40, was chosen to continue the line after the last W-SS division, the 38th 'Nibelungen'.

My question is two-fold:
- How acceptable is it within the wider re-enactment community to do a fictional unit like this, given the reasons I have stated for following that route?
- What advice could be given to us at this starting point?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:33 pm 
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Reading what you've said, I personally can't see anything wrong with doing a 'ficticious' unit ,as long as the whole representation, uniforms, kit, drill etc etc is generically correct for a typical Heer / SS mob..
The theme of a Sth African volunteer axis unit is ,in my opinion, a most interesting and novel idea !
I wish you all the best with your new unit ! :D


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:45 pm 
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Location: Grossbritannien
Very intresting idea, one question though in the "history" of your ficticious
SS unit because obviously it has to be believable for it to be feasible, where
would the recruits originated from??, obviously you are saying they have
Afrikaan roots but it would not believable to say they were based in SA.

Personally i would make a believable history of your "ficticious unit" for it
to be believed, so you could say the Unit was formed from ex South African
compatriots, who had German roots and moved back to Germany at the
outbreak of the War, this happened alot apparently, especially with
volunteers not living in Europe such as America etc.

Also you could invent your own Unit emblem which also happened with
foreign Volunteer Units, perhaps a palm tree with an SS rune emblem or
Springbok with runes??, something like that, anyway food for thought, a
very novel idea and wish you every success.

Regards Peiper :wink:

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:06 pm 
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5th SS Division Viking had a pretty clean slate , as did most of the European SS units . If you're Afrikaans , why not do Nederland or Langemark ? Any South African volunteers would have had to volunteer individually , given the world situation , and would probably have ended up in a foreign volunteer unit and sent to the East .
I don't think you're ever going to get away from people criticising what you do , especially an SS impression , and with a historical unit you have something solid to base your impression on and pride in your units combat history .
Having said all that , I wish you every success in what you choose to do , and look forward to seeing your SS/Heer impressions .

Regards , Halle .

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 2:35 am 
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askhati,

interesting concept, i must admit i am very impressed with your creativity, and i can totally understand your logic and reasoning, but IMHO it would be better to go with an historical unit, not an invented one.
an inherent part of doing German is the "associated negative history." i do not wish to imply that i think you are intentionally glossing it over, but to me it seems slightly naïve to create a "perfect" German unit without any blemishes. If you were creating an airsoft group or (hopefully not) a militia, that could be overlooked. but to represent yourself as a historically accurate unit, i think you should portray a real unit. warts and all.
i suppose in the type of environment you describe, you should be very upfront about the fact that yes, some Germans did horrible things. and many Germans were complicit, to varying extents, in those horrible things. and some units had better records than others, but none were perfect. rather than ignore that, use it as a teaching tool... racism (or other "ism"s) exist everywhere to some extent. the human race is far from perfect, both as individuals and groups. there are probably 15 nations at this moment which, given a charismatic leader and the right circumstances, could plunge easily into a similar abyss as Germany from 1933-1945. which is why we need to look clearly at the past, accept it, learn from it, and try to improve upon it and not let it repeat. and there were some individuals and groups which had little knowledge of what was really going on, or who did know and did not approve, or actively opposed it (think the "White Rose" teens or Operation Valkyrie).
i'll get off the soap-box now...

as far as possible units, my interests have been towards units such as the 97. Jäger Division, 71. Infanterie Division, and 5. Gebirgsjäger Division. generally, assault units which moved around a lot, fought primarily on the eastern front or Italy, and, generally, have a relatively "clean" record. my logic is that an elite unit on the assault would have less time or interest in messing with civilians than units that did more occupation duty or had members with an ethnic bone to grind with their opponents. units that deserve to be remembered either for their noteworthiness (71st was destroyed at Stalingrad, 5. Gebirgs was on Crete) or their anonymity (97th Jäger fought at Kursk among other places, was a typical average jäger unit). i'm sure there are several other similar units out there. then you have the fun of the challenge to find sources for photos and veteran accounts and unit histories.

long story short, i think ultimately people will respect and value your unit more if you are honest and real than if you create a "what-if" idealistic scenario. either way, i wish you success, and please post links/photos once you get the unit going!

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97. Jäger-Division
71. Infanterie-Division
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:21 am 
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Location: Braunschweig/germany
I think, if you do a fictional Unit, it has nothing to do with re-enactment or living history. The main idea of re-enactmen like it was written by Robin George Collingwood in his Book "Theorie der Historiographie" is, recreate the real history.
Here in germany we do not have the only problems with the jewish comunity, as you can imagine, we have problems with everybody in this state. Press and Antifa are very agressive and even the normal people are affraid of being called as a Nazi, if they protect anything which has to do with the third reich.
I have a mayor here, who gave me a some public money for our group with the word´s, please do´nt tell anyboddy that we protect you. If the press learns it, they will kick me out.
So, in my opinion, do´nt mind, what some people say, there is no way zo escape, you will get some trouble oneday. Maybe later when you do a fictive group, but it will come anyway. So, if doing it is not forbidden in your country, i would like to fight for my freedom. The idea to do Wiking looks verry good for me too, but if i would live in Afrika, nothing would stop me to do Afrika Korps.
Just my opinion....

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:22 am 
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Ohmhagen wrote:
I think, if you do a fictional Unit, it has nothing to do with re-enactment or living history. The main idea of re-enactmen like it was written by Robin George Collingwood in his Book "Theorie der Historiographie" is, recreate the real history.
Here in germany we do not have the only problems with the jewish comunity, as you can imagine, we have problems with everybody in this state. Press and Antifa are very agressive and even the normal people are affraid of being called as a Nazi, if they protect anything which has to do with the third reich.
I have a mayor here, who gave me a some public money for our group with the word´s, please do´nt tell anyboddy that we protect you. If the press learns it, they will kick me out.
So, in my opinion, do´nt mind, what some people say, there is no way zo escape, you will get some trouble oneday. Maybe later when you do a fictive group, but it will come anyway. So, if doing it is not forbidden in your country, i would like to fight for my freedom. The idea to do Wiking looks verry good for me too, but if i would live in Afrika, nothing would stop me to do Afrika Korps.
Just my opinion....


Although i agree with certain things you said Ohmhagen but as Ashkahti has said he wants to do a fictitious
unit, thats fair enough, my comments were based on this, but if he is going to portray the said "fictitious
unit" it has to be believed, although i agree with your comments about having problems with different parts
of the community, we have the same here, even to some extent SS runes/insignia are banned at certain events
but nothing would stop me portraying which i want to portray, (i portray LSSAH) unless they ban WW2 German re-
enactment completely, in a perfect world people should be able to portray what they want but it isn't like that as
well we know and sometimes you have to toe the line in whats acceptable to society or the certain laws of your own
Country.

You have to try to overcome it and ignore it as much as you can if thats possible but its not always the case,
although we cant comment on what goes on in SA because we dont know, the situation may be worse hence the
guy is looking for a way round the problem and you have to admire that, thats why i think the idea deserves some
encouragement, anyway fair play Askhati, ignore the knockers, you portray German WW2 re-enactment however
you possibly can mate :wink: .

Regards Peiper

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"Stride with proud disdain through the swamp of human inadmissibility" Jochen Peiper 1915-1976
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:45 am 
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Making up a unit to avoid the horrible history/attrocity side of the SS is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in ages. One of the justifications most of us come out with is that representing history needs to be balanced and show all sides. What you are suggesting is effectively holocaust denial.

This just adds to my dissillusionment within reenactment these days where people try to make the history fit into what they want to do rather than the other way around. You have taken it one step further and added a completely non-existent unit to the SS, this could also raise the question of why? It could be portrayed that you are doing it so you can re-start the third reich.

The Latvian SS were not declared illegal after the war and until recently still paraded to commerorate their fallen comrades, why not portray them? the Nuremburg judges ruled that they were a legal organisation so they can't have been that bad. 31st Januar were formed in 1945, how many crimes could they have committed? I would suggest you grow a pair, read some books, prepare a stout defence of your hobby and why you chose it and defend your position when challenged.
Alternatively get a copy of Iron Skies and tell them you are reenacting that, at least then you would be recreating something that existed, even if it w3as only on a film set.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:18 am 
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wolfsangel wrote:
Making up a unit to avoid the horrible history/attrocity side of the SS is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in ages. One of the justifications most of us come out with is that representing history needs to be balanced and show all sides. What you are suggesting is effectively holocaust denial.

This just adds to my dissillusionment within reenactment these days where people try to make the history fit into what they want to do rather than the other way around. You have taken it one step further and added a completely non-existent unit to the SS, this could also raise the question of why? It could be portrayed that you are doing it so you can re-start the third reich.

The Latvian SS were not declared illegal after the war and until recently still paraded to commerorate their fallen comrades, why not portray them? the Nuremburg judges ruled that they were a legal organisation so they can't have been that bad. 31st Januar were formed in 1945, how many crimes could they have committed? I would suggest you grow a pair, read some books, prepare a stout defence of your hobby and why you chose it and defend your position when challenged.
Alternatively get a copy of Iron Skies and tell them you are reenacting that, at least then you would be recreating something that existed, even if it w3as only on a film set.


........You cant say that mate you dont know this guys situation/circumstances !!!!!

I dont know why i bother commenting on debates nobody ever reads what ive written :roll:

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"Schreite mit stolzer Geringschatzung durch den Pfuhl menschlicher Unzulassigkeit"
"Stride with proud disdain through the swamp of human inadmissibility" Jochen Peiper 1915-1976
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:32 pm 
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wolfsangel wrote:
...I would suggest you grow a pair, read some books, prepare a stout defence of your hobby and why you chose it and defend your position when challenged...

And I assume you got your pair by acting the perfect little Nazi online? Congratulations - that is something to be proud of. Really.

I will take Ohmhagen's message back to the group though - if there are guys willing to do this in Germany, then surely our group can follow their example.

Another reason for doing a fictional unit/not a specific SS/Heer unit is because of differences in climate. Wool, effective as it might be in Europe, is a killer in the African climate. Our winter days average 25 degrees Celsius; summer is 28 Celsius MINIMUM, with most days averaging 32-34 degrees. If we were planning to be a parade unit, standing around with beers and beer-bellies so that tourists and fair-goers could take photos of us, wool would have been fine. But we are more active than that, and I do not plan to stop re-enacting for 6 months merely because it would lead to heatstroke.

So... We're using HBT uniforms. And if we do an existing SS/Heer unit, the stich-Nazis will immediately start shouting about authenticity and how HBT was not that common, or not used by that unit, or not by that unit in that theater, blah blah anal blah.

Our reason for NOT doing DAK is simple: we live in a sub-tropical area, not the desert. Our winters (June-August) are dry and cold; summer (December-February) is wet and lush, looking more like Vietnam than the deserts of Egypt. As difficult as it might be for some people to imagine, the whole world does NOT look like the US in terms of landscape and climate. The Southern Hemisphere is different, and we're having to adapt accordingly in terms of what we can reasonably wear all year round.

Of course, there is no reason why we HAVE to be one unit or the other, be it fictional or not, so we could end up just doing generic SS/Heer impressions. Like I said, our group is still in its infancy, and there are still many ideas and options on the table. Many thanks to the guys that have provided constructive input thus far, we really appreciate it.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:59 pm 
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I would have thought the simple logical thing to do would have been to chose a unit that fought in Africa as part of the DAK, that fits the climate and terrain to a reasonable degree. Although I know of course there is a lot of difference between north and south Africa. You do a Heer unit like maybe the 10. or 21.Panzer-Division, if you really want a cuff title maybe the Herman Georing Division?

Personally I don't like the sound of a fictional unit, but I can see the theory behind the idea.

Quote:
Our reason for NOT doing DAK is simple: we live in a sub-tropical area, not the desert. Our winters (June-August) are dry and cold; summer (December-February) is wet and lush, looking more like Vietnam than the deserts of Egypt. As difficult as it might be for some people to imagine, the whole world does NOT look like the US in terms of landscape and climate. The Southern Hemisphere is different, and we're having to adapt accordingly in terms of what we can reasonably wear all year round.


Sorry just read this, what about a unit that fought in Italy?

Ernst


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:40 pm 
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My opinion is that it would be better to seek a unit that fought in the war and portray them thus giving credibility to your impression as matt does have a valid point here as it would open you up to criticism, Peiper here takes a different position that do what you think is best for you but have some depth to it and well after all it is an impression not the real war, i think if it makes you happy do as you wish but do it well. You could research if south africans served for the reich

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 9:45 pm 
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29 core members of the BFC were kitted out and vetted as members of the now Waffen-SS sponsored unit. These BFC members included three Canadians, three South Africans, three Australians, and one New Zealander. The rest were either UK nationals of pre-war Mosley-ite persuasion, or in the case of at least two members, had one parent of German birth. All members of the BFC were issued their Soldbuchs using psuedonyms.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:21 pm 
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I'm far from a perfect Nazi online or off, having done SS for many years in the UK I can only relate to the ignorance and abuse that is given out in the UK. However I stand my my comments, I genuinely don't see how inventing a unit is somehow better than one that already existed.

I tried to suggest SS units that were not linked with atrocities, if you really want to avoid that issue then don't do SS - which is I guess what you are suggesting, but then trying to thinly veil it as reenactment, which it is not. Fantasy, invention, call it what you like but you are not re-enacting or recreating a look/unit that previously existed, you made it up.

If pointing out such simple differences leads you to assume I am an online Nazi then that is your decision, despite the 'grow a pair' remark I was trying to give an honest constructive opinion - I am not overly politically correct or tactful and would probably have said this face to face.

I'm not out here to stir and cause an arguement, so if you want I will stop posting here, but do me a favour and keep the personal jibes to yourself or PM.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:02 am 
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Regarding using HBT/DAK uniform, it was used plenty in Italy and the southern front in Russia, and pops up randomly anywhere in 1945 as things fell apart. HBT shows up more often than you'd think in Russia, even a few rare instances of the white drill uniforms being worn IIRC. They got dirty pretty quick in the field. My favorite though is a photo of an NCO in what appears to be a green HBT jacket with shoulder boards and breast eagle applied, with collar tresse and litzen. No sign of ever having had breast pockets on the jacket, so I lean towards the HBT drill version.
Anyway, DAK stuff shows up often in Italy due to stocks being redistributed after defeat in north Africa.
It would still come down to heavily researching whatever historical unit you choose, or which you base your unit upon if you choose to create a fictitious unit.

BFC would be an interesting alternate impression, which you could even "run with" and extrapolate into a fictionalized "what-if" scenario still based on a real unit... i.e. "what if more volunteers had come from SA/former German African colonies, and the BFC had seen combat in northern Italy, or on the Russian front..."

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97. Jäger-Division
71. Infanterie-Division
5. Gebirgsjäger-Division
T/5 Matthew Cleaver
165th Signal Photo Company
Gott Mit Uns
Hurra die Gams!
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