If you drive through Reading this month, you might see dozens of grown men sporting swastikas, SS insignia and vintage Nazi sidearms. Are Berks County’s Keystone State Skinheads holding a fashion show? What excuse could there be for such attire?
Historical reenactment, of course. The Reading Air Show and WWII Weekend attracts hundreds of reenactors, including French Resistance fighters, U.S. Marines and, yes, Nazis. As one anonymous fake Nazi puts it: “Someone has to be the Nazis.” True enough. You can’t play cowboys and Indians without the genocidal cowboys, and Confederate Army reenactors barely raise an eyebrow. Still, there’s something unsettling about these Nazis, even if they are fake.
Maybe it’s their websites, which are all we can go by, since (fake) Nazis are, understandably, media-shy. The sites are quick to disclaim any (real) Nazi beliefs or affiliations, but click around on some and you’ll find animated SS logos, “inspirational quotes” from the Fuhrer, and photos of fat, swastika’d men flirting with frauleins and drinking beer. For the kids, there are a variety of jugend soldaten — “young soldier” — programs.
We figured we were just being P.C., so we asked noted anti-P.C. squawkbox Michael Smerconish, who had never even heard of war reenactment as a hobby, to weigh in. “It sounds like a warped form of Halloween,” he says. “I question those who get their jollies dressing up like this. Having said that, perhaps it’s just the logical conclusion of the cops-and-robbers games we used to play as kids.”