‘Mortally offensive’: Popular UK festival turns ugly after locals clash with group dressed as Nazi soldiers
“They were marching and making a demonstration,” said one shocked onlooker. “It was frightening.”
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The organisers of a popular 1940s festival are facing calls to ban Nazi uniforms after ugly scenes saw clashes between locals and a group dressed in SS costumes. The men were confronted by crowds on Sheringham High Street in Norfolk during the resort’s Second World War-themed at the weekend.
The group subsequently had to be escorted out of the area by police to stop the trouble escalating. The annual event drew up to 25,000 people across both days many of them in period dress.
Among them was the group of at least ten men in Nazi-era German uniforms, including some with SS markings on their collars, as well as badges featuring the ‘death’s head’ symbol and swastikas. Their presence angered many locals with onlookers shouting and telling them they were not welcome.
Event marshals stepped in to ask the men to leave and police also intervened to shepherd the group away from the angry crowds. Officers said one man had reported being assaulted and that they were still investigating.
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 period 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”.
Witnesses said the group congregated outside The Lobster pub, where they were confronted by locals. 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.”
Sheringham Town Council have said that they 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.”
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.”
A spokesperson for Norfolk Police, said: “A police officer on patrol in Sheringham came across a confrontation in the High Street on Saturday (September 16) 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.”
Speaking about the incident Karen Pollock CBE, chief executive of Holocaust Educational Trust, said:“It is shocking and offensive to see in 2023 people dressed as Nazis and members of the SS – the very people responsible for the horrific ill-treatment and murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children during the Holocaust. These people should not be glorified – and it sounds like the majority in attendance agree.”