A group of men who dressed as Nazi soldiers at a 1940s festival had to be escorted from the event by police after they were attacked by angry locals.
At least 10 of them appeared in SS uniforms with Swastikas, regimental markings on their collars and the ‘death’s head’ Totenkopf divisional insignia, which is a skull and crossbones.
Trouble broke out at the popular annual event in Sheringham High Street, Norfolk, on Saturday as unimpressed crowds clashed with the group.
Eyewitnesses say the group were outside The Lobster pub when they were confronted by furious onlookers – with many reportedly shouting at them and telling them they weren’t welcome.
Marshals were forced to step in and ask them to leave to prevent any violence escalating further after one of the men was reportedly attacked.
Police then escorted the group away from the town centre following the ugly scenes.
Mike Keller, who lost family members in the Holocaust and whose father escaped Nazi Germany in the Kindertransport, was among those appalled by the sight of the uniforms.
He said: ‘It was a lovely family atmosphere and very friendly, when suddenly from nowhere there were 10-15 men dressed in authentic SS uniform literally marching in unison.
‘It was deeply offensive. These men were not milling about and blending in among people. They were marching and making a demonstration. It was frightening.
‘My father was from a Jewish family who lost his parents and brothers and sisters in death camps.
‘He was fortunate to escape with my uncle via Kindertransport, so having to see this with my son was mortally offensive and a disgraceful act.’
Another witness said: ‘When the group gathered outside of the pub, the family-friendly atmosphere of the day fell tense. There was so much tension and shock in the air.
‘There were many jeers and heckles from onlookers. While the group stood proud, one man at the pub confronted them.
‘That’s when the police arrived and swiftly escorted the group out of town. It all happened quite quickly.’
The incident has prompted calls to ban Nazi uniforms from future weekends and the town council has agreed to discuss proposals to make the event Allied-uniform only.
German military clothing from the World War II era is not currently banned – although the North Norfolk Railway, which runs an associated event over the same weekend, does not permit such garments.
A spokesman for the main festival organisers say German uniforms are permitted, as long as they do not ‘promote the Nazis’.
He claimed the incident had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and that the group was there to ‘commemorate the German people’.
Sheringham Town Council said it will discuss with Norfolk police a way to avoid a repeat situation at future weekends.
A spokesman said: ‘Sheringham Town Council has been made aware that on the Saturday there was an incident in the town that was managed by the police.
‘Sheringham Town Council will consult with the police, North Norfolk Railway and others to determine what happened and what action may be taken to prevent a recurrence.’
Officers are investigating the alleged assault but the re-enactment group at the centre of the controversy claim the incident was ‘overblown’ and that only one ‘intoxicated’ person had objections about them being there.
The Eastern Front Living History Group said they have been attending the Sheringham 1940s weekend for years, raising money for military veterans, and have never experienced any negative behaviour towards them before.
A spokesperson said: ‘We represent the western European nations that fought against Stalin and communism during WWII.
‘We were wearing Waffen SS infantry uniforms displaying national shields and insignia of the countries portrayed. Not one member of the group portrayed a German.
‘The uniforms were supplied by Germany, as were the weapons, to the foreign volunteers from 1941-1945. They’re as close to authentic as you can get.
‘As a group we’ve been attending the Sheringham 1940s weekend for four or five years running and never had any problems before.’
The group said people were ‘stopping us, shaking our hands and wanting to take photos’ before the confrontation.
‘It was a brilliant vibe,’ the spokesman added. ‘There was no one upset or offended at all. It was good natured fun as it should be.
‘We were a quarter of the way down the high street when a guy who was highly intoxicated approached a member of the group and assaulted him. He was foaming at the mouth – it was very scary.
‘He then attacked me and pushed me screaming about Jewish persecution and his heritage saying it was disrespectful.
‘I said to him I understood his point of view, but what we portray is a million miles from the point which was upsetting him.
‘As a group we do not tolerate any politics or any form of religious persecution. We simply won’t have it. That behaviour disgusts us and tarnishes what we do.
‘We were not asked to leave. We were leaving anyway to go back to our campsite.. We felt it was the right thing to do.
‘We want to send our best wishes to a lady who was pulled over by her dog due to the erratic anti-social behaviour of the same gentlemen that attacked us on three separate occasions.’
A police spokeswoman said: ‘A police officer on patrol in Sheringham came across a confrontation in the High Street on Saturday at about 5.30pm, involving a man and a group of people who had been attending an event.
‘The officer intervened and quickly resolved the incident. One man reported being assaulted and this is being investigated further. No one was injured during the incident.’
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