I don't want to leave the Rich Iott controversy without addressing the question that has been filling up my in-box: What's so bad about Nazi re-enactments? I'd have thought the answer obvious, and to most people it is. But I've gotten a lot of email from re-enactors upset to see their hobby being condemned. So, with some outside help, I want to take a stab at explaining.
Their main defense--it's also Iott's defense--is that donning Nazi uniforms and pretending to fight is somehow "educational" and reflects only an interest in history. The problem with this defense is that it's categorically false, because these re-enactments downplay or simply ignore the most historically significant fact about the Nazis: the Holocaust. I spent a good deal of time on the Wiking website, the outfit that Iott was part of, and didn't once see the words "Holocaust" or "Jew." Yes, there was a pro forma disclaimer that Nazis did some bad things. But the thrust of the "history" presented therein was devoted to glorifying the exploits and implicitly excusing the atrocities of the Waffen SS soldiers. Worse, a number of re-enactors have chastised me for quoting actual academic historians because, as one of them put it, "historians of the winning side always write history the way they see it," and only they--the grown men earnestly playing soldier in the forest--are the true authorities on Nazism. It's this perversion of history that's so troubling.