Organizers of a popular 1940s festival are facing calls to ban Nazi uniforms after horrific scenes of clashes between locals and a group of men dressed in “deeply offensive” SS costumes with swastikas.
The men faced crowds on Sheringham High Street in Norfolk during this weekend’s annual Second World War-themed festival, during which people dress up and watch planes from the era fly over the above their heads.
The group of around ten to fifteen people then had to be escorted out of the area during the “1940s weekend” by police to prevent the unrest from escalating.
The annual event attracted up to 25,000 people over the two days, many in period costumes, with photos and videos online showing street dancing and family celebrations.
But the popular event was spoiled when the group in Nazi-era German uniforms gathered outside a local pub and “marched in unison” through the jovial crowd.
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The men were confronted by crowds on Sheringham High Street in Norfolk during the annual World War II-themed festival.
Some uniforms had SS inscriptions on the collar, representing Hitler’s infamous death squad, as well as insignia featuring the “skull” symbol and swastikas.
Their presence angered many residents, with passersby shouting at them and telling them they were not welcome.
Event marshals intervened to ask the men to leave before police also intervened to move the group away from the angry crowd.
The incident sparked calls to ban Nazi uniforms on upcoming weekends, and the city council agreed to discuss proposals to make the event restricted to Allied uniforms.
German military clothing from this period is not currently banned, although the North Norfolk Railway, which is holding an associated event the same weekend, does not permit such clothing.
A spokesperson for festival organizers said German uniforms are allowed, provided they do not “promote Nazis”.
He claimed the incident was a “misunderstanding” and that the group was there to “commemorate the German people.”
Witnesses said the group gathered outside The Lobster pub, where they were confronted by locals.
Mike Keller, who lost family members in the Holocaust and whose father fled Nazi Germany aboard the Kindertransport, was among those dismayed by the sight of the uniforms.
He said: “It was a very friendly, family atmosphere when suddenly, out of nowhere, 10 to 15 men dressed in authentic SS uniform were literally marching in unison.
“It was deeply offensive. These men did not mix with people. They were marching and demonstrating. It was scary.
“My father came from a Jewish family who lost his parents and brothers and sisters in the death camps. He was lucky enough to escape with my uncle via Kindertransport, so having to watch this with my son was deadly offensive and a shameful act.
A spokesperson for the festival organizers said the incident was a “misunderstanding”.
A spokesman for the group, which wore Nazi-style uniforms, admitted that members wore Waffen SS infantry uniforms, but claimed they did not represent Germans.
Another witness said: “As the group gathered outside the pub the family atmosphere of the day became tense. There was so much tension and shock in the air.
“There was a lot of booing and heckling from the spectators. While the group was proud, a man at the pub confronted them.
“That’s when the police arrived and quickly escorted the group out of town. Everything happened pretty quickly.
Commenting online, visitor Julie Jones said: “I loved the effort of people dressing up themselves and their dogs. A nice atmosphere too… until I saw a group dressed in German uniforms.
“I was surprised at how upset I felt and thought it was totally inappropriate on a joyous occasion celebrating the good of the 1940s.”
Sheringham Borough Council said it would discuss with Norfolk Police how to avoid a repeat of the situation over future weekends.
A spokesperson said: “Sheringham Borough Council has been informed that on Saturday an incident occurred in the town and was dealt with by police.
“Sheringham Borough Council will consult with the police, North Norfolk Railway and others to determine what happened and what steps can be taken to prevent it happening again.”
However, a spokesperson for the Eastern Front Living History Group said the incident was exaggerated, saying local people were “shaking their hands” and taking photos.
The group said they had been attending Sheringham 1940s Weekend for years, raising money for veterans, and had never experienced negative behavior towards them before.
The spokesperson said: “We run battle re-enactments, exhibitions and educational tours across the UK, raising money for charities for injured soldiers so they can have artificial limbs.
“We represent the nations of Western Europe who fought against Stalin and communism during World War II.
“We wore Waffen SS infantry uniforms displaying the national shields and insignia of the countries represented. No member of the group represented a German.
“The uniforms were provided by Germany, as were the weapons, to foreign volunteers from 1941 to 1945. They are as authentic as possible.
“As a group we have been attending the 40s weekend at Sheringham for four or five years running and we have never had any problems before.
“We were walking down the main street in Sheringham and people would stop us, shake our hands and want to take photos. It was a great atmosphere. No one was upset or offended. It was good-natured fun as it should be.
“We were a quarter of the way down the main street when a very drunk guy approached a member of the group and attacked him. He was foaming at the mouth – it was very scary.
“He then attacked me and pushed me, shouting about the persecution of Jews and his heritage, saying it was disrespectful.”
“I told him I understand his point of view, but what we are describing is a million miles from the point that upset him.
“As a group, we do not tolerate any politics or any form of religious persecution. We just won’t have it. This behavior disgusts us and tarnishes what we do.
“We were not asked to leave. We were leaving anyway to return to our campsite. We thought it was the right thing to do.
A Norfolk Police spokesperson said: “A police officer on patrol in Sheringham witnessed a confrontation in the High Street at around 5.30pm on Saturday, involving a man and a group of people who were attending an event.
“The officer intervened and quickly resolved the incident. A man reported being assaulted and this matter is being investigated further. No one was injured during the incident.