Frequently Asked Questions
|The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) respond to the worldwide
interest in the International Agreement of Disassociation by clarifying
possible misunderstandings and preventing disinformation. The following
FAQ were drawn from actual forum discussions. Please contact us if your
questions are not answered here.
Q: Wasn't the Waffen SS only a fighting unit that intrinsically belonged to the SS but actually had the status of a fourth branch of the Wehrmacht? So why is there a problem portraying Waffen SS members who were in effect comparable to normal soldiers?
Q: If you donít want to be associated with anyone who displays Nazi symbols and uniforms, doesnít that mean refusal to deal with museums, libraries, reenactment groups, film producers, TV, history authors, collectors, etc.?
Q: Why do you think this disclaimer is necessary?
A: World War II military reenactment is considered morally dubious in many countries (especially inside continental Europe). A serious problem is the portrayal of German soldiers because his role is too often confused with the reenactor's own political beliefs.
While, for example, the portrayal of non-Party related branches like Heer, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine is already viewed with borderline acceptance in many European countries, political impressions are either forbidden by law or unwanted due to the atrocities that the people in these countries had to endure. There, any reenactment of Nazi political organizations or the connection with groups who maintain such impressions are deemed especially harmful for any effort to establish WWII reenactment in public. In countries where reenactment of Nazi political organizations is permitted, unsavory groups and individuals wearing SS attire have grown steadily over the years, and openly display hate symbols or participate in pro-SS activity. This gravely endangers the reputation of ordinary military reenactment (even in countries where no reenactment of Nazi political organizations is done), and causes public repulsion of the Living History scene in general.
As a result, we felt that it has become necessary for serious reenactment groups and living history participants to disassociate against rewriting of military history by trivializing the negative aspects of SS service, in order to safeguard public acceptance of the entire hobby.
A: Nazi ideology and actual Nazi organizational performance during the Third Reich era should not be glorified or glossed over in a superficial manner without a full accounting of its atrocious record of horrendous crimes and inhumane acts. Any presentation of Nazi Party machinery or personnel, presenting less than a total depiction of its full horrific record, does a grave disservice to the public and veteran community and perpetuates historical injustice.
Reenactors of Nazi political organizations usually point out that their impressions are acceptable to be reenacted in public as long as it is done in a nonpolitical way (for example without Hitler salutes, racist comments or ideological songs, only nonpolitical combat situations etc.). However, in our opinion, if you divorce the political-ideological background from any political organization, you remove its most important part and falsify history. For example, if you skip the racist, criminal, terrorist character of the SS you play down the role it actually had and gloss over history.
Even battle situations with Waffen-SS members cannot be reenacted adequately in a nonpolitical manner, because the ideological indoctrinated training of these individuals clearly differed from the usual military training which Wehrmacht soldiers went through and caused distinctly different behavior in fighting situations (as well as outside the combat zone) which would have to be clarified. SS battlefield participation, wrapped in the mystique of military grandeur, denies the totality of the unforgivably brutal and criminal SS performance and can be misused to present National Socialist principles in a positive light.
Therefore, this disclaimer emphasizes the continuing need to present all the facts and for example condemns reenactment of Nazi political organizations that shows only part of their activity.
Another problem of any Nazi impressions is that no ordinary person can decide if the people who wear Nazi uniforms aren't indeed actually people who support this ideology -- no matter if they refrain from certain activity in public like the Hitler salute. Thus, anyone who wears such uniforms deliberately in public runs the risk of being associated with the ideology of a criminal organization. Such problems could be easily prevented by using inanimate displays with adequate historical information explanations.
A: The Waffen-SS was never part of the Wehrmacht. This is one of the most common assertions of neo-fascist revisionist misinformation.
In actual fact, the Waffen-SS existed as an autonomous arm of the SS under Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler that was independent of Wehrmacht recruitment and promotion, rank structure, replacement channels, and administrative oversight to include war crimes authority. The Waffen-SS was a militarized guardian and enforcement element of loyal "Nazi elite troopers" whose purpose was to eradicate any resistance to the Nazi cause. The SS role inside Germany against the home population (even against Germany's military, if necessary) was extended in wartime to all occupied countries.
The following Hitler-decree from 17 August 1938 is regarded as the
birth certificate of the Waffen-SS:
The support force (Verfuegungstruppe) is neither a part of the armed forces nor the police. It is a troop for my (Hitler's) exclusive order. As such, and as a component of the NSDAP (National Socialist Party), it is to be selected ideologically and politically according to the guidelines given by me for the NSDAP through the protective guard of the Reichsfuehrer-SS.
Hitler repeatedly pointed out that the Waffen-SS shouldn't be limited to military duties. This, for example, was also documented in this secret Hitler-decree from 6 August 1940 about the purpose of the Waffen-SS:
"Das Großdeutsche Reich in seiner endgültigen Gestalt wird mit seinen Grenzen nicht ausschließlich Volkskörper umspannen, die von vornherein dem Reich wohlwollend gegenüber stehen. Über den Kern des Reiches hinaus ist es daher notwendig, eine Staatstruppenpolizei zu schaffen, die in jeder Situation befähigt ist, die Autorität des Reiches im Innern zu vertreten und durchzusetzen."
Greater Germany (of the Third Reich) in its final shape will not solely include population groups within its borders that will regard, from the outset, the empire with favor. Beyond the core of the empire, it is therefore necessary to create a State police-troop organization which is qualified in every situation to implement and enforce the authority of the regime inside its territory.
The SS and its components, to include Waffen-SS, were utilized by the Nazi regime to conduct cruel and merciless programs that terrorized the population to ensure Nazi Party domination. These included the targeted persecution and extermination of Jews and other undesirables; murderous operation of the atrocious concentration camp system; brutal torture and inhumane atrocities within occupied territories; administration of the slave labor program, and the murder and mistreatment of prisoners of war. Therefore, although the Waffen-SS is commonly called the fighting or combat arm of the SS, it never functioned purely in that capacity but also participated in widespread criminal conduct.
For example, the Totenkopf Division was raised almost exclusively from concentration camp guards, and kept detachments in concentration camp guard and related status throughout the war. Other personnel and various detachments from other Waffen-SS units were also part of the NS concentration camp and mass-murder system during various parts of the war, and thus did not always function in a fighting role on the front. Because of these facts, the Waffen-SS was never employed in a purely combat role apart from the Nazi liquidation and butchery process.
As a result, on 30 September 1946 the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, found the SS (to include Waffen-SS) to be a criminal organization while the High Command (Wehrmacht) was acquitted. Therefore, the court confirmed the entirely separate nature of the Waffen-SS by judging it a criminal element, whereas the Wehrmacht was declared non-criminal (if the Wehrmacht somehow included the Waffen-SS then its criminality would have applied to both). Therefore, in legal and historical fact, the Waffen-SS was never a "fourth branch" of the Wehrmacht.
Additionally, Waffen-SS members cannot be described as "normal soldiers". The training of Waffen-SS personnel was politically motivated to promote Nazi ideology and differed distinctly from the training of Wehrmacht soldiers. Waffen-SS personnel were taught to be part of the political vanguard of Nazism as their first duty, and trained in soldiering secondarily.
The Waffen-SS despised the "old school" German Army training methods, and believed that Germany's "Rebirth" necessitated a new doctrine based on supremacy of personal commitment to NS Party ideals. Therefore, the SS believed that proper political indoctrination and the attitude of "always be on the attack" was more important than basic schooling in tactical maneuver. Especially, in the early years of war, the political indoctrinated SS fighters were known as completely fanatical personnel who employed brutal combat and ruthless civilian control techniques. From the beginning, their fierce reputation included mass murder and large-scale horrific atrocities against opponents, especially those deemed as racial inferior or opposing Nazi beliefs.
Note: We are aware that not every Waffen-SS member committed crimes
and not every Waffen-SS member joined voluntarily. This was especially
applicable during the late-war period. However, this doesn't change the
actual fact that they belonged nevertheless to a criminal organization.
This fact must be remembered. Therefore, any situation where
A: Most current disclaimers only prohibit or discourage activity already declared criminal by society (such as Nazi Party affiliation or renunciations of violence) within their own groups. However, they usually do not address the more common problem of SS and Nazi Party representation that skirts the law by pretending "historical presence" as a means to justify its inclusion. Since this common problem is group comprehensive anyway and can't be improved by single groups, it needs a group comprehensive agreement. Only the combined effort by all concerned groups to join this disclaimer can reform the hobby and maintain its integrity for public acceptance.
A: The comradeship and cooperation between reenactment groups throughout the world requires consideration of issues affecting the entire Living History community. Differing laws between countries require reenactment groups to be especially careful not to be connected with activities forbidden in their own countries. Unfavorable reports about groups in other countries also adversely affect groups in the country where bad reports are shown.
This international interest in improving the situation extends the existing laws of several countries (France, Germany, among others) to a globally recognized standard of law-abiding decency This voluntary adoption prevents the current practice of SS and Nazi-Party enthusiasts to abuse the hobby by taking advantage of legal loopholes and conflicting laws to maintain a presence that excites the media and adversely affects the public, to the detriment of the entire reenactment and living history scene.
A: No, it is not. This is a voluntary agreement. Nobody is forced to join it. However, the listed groups feel that it is in their own interest not to maintain, support or encourage activities named in the declaration. Therefore, they voluntarily decline from such activities in any kind.
When the declaration states that we want to participate in an active role that prevents and discourages certain groups and persons, this doesn't mean that we force anyone to do things he or she doesn't agree with. Our active role consists of appealing to the rationality of fellow reenactors and event organizers in trying to convince them with sound reasons to support a voluntary self-restriction for the good of the hobby.
A: No, we donít. Itís neither discriminating, criminalizing nor blackmailing to promote and join voluntary public protest against certain reenactment impressions, and voluntarily discourage events permitting such impressions. These are rightful democratic ways of using free speech, protesting peacefully and disassociating from activities deemed harmful to the reenactment community in our opinion.
We donít discriminate or criminalize against any reenactor; anyone can still visit any desired event that he or she chooses, as long as he or she doesnít wear insignia and uniforms forbidden by law or unwanted by the organizer. If someone feels individually disfavored, because people dislike the impression he or she wears (for various good reasons), then that person may be unable to differentiate between his or her character and the impression being worn.
Additionally, no organizer of events is forced (blackmailed) to do anything. Itís his or her free decision whom he or she invites and whom he or she does not invite. And itís the free decision of groups to follow an invitation or not. This is entirely voluntary.
A: No "large part of the story" is removed nor do we try to whitewash history. To the contrary, the disclaimer, read entirely, makes the point quite clear. One is opposed to reenactment of SS, but still committed to tell the full facts about SS wartime service through other means that don't involve reenactment. The reason is also stated: because in our opinion reenactment alone cannot sufficiently relate the horrible atrocities committed by the Nazi Party and its various organizations in the planned death of millions of people.
However, we think a large part of the story is indeed "removed" and history is whitewashed when SS reenactment groups skip the large story of SS performance outside the combat zone and only portray SS fighting units as "normal soldiers".
A: No, it is not. Unlike the Nazi Party and Party-related organizations mentioned in the declaration, the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) and its Heer (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Kriegsmarine (Navy) were traditional national defense establishments that predated the Nazi takeover of 1933.
The World War I forerunner of the Luftwaffe was suspended during the interwar years because Germany was disallowed an air force by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, but reinstated in 1935 (technically breaking the treaty of 1919). This reinstatement was a continuation of Germany's World War I air force -- verified by unit lineage dating to the original air force. Thus, neither the Luftwaffe nor the Heer nor the Kriegsmarine were armed components originally raised by the Party after the Nazi takeover of 1933 nor were they ever an integral part of the Nazi Party, unlike the SS, SD, Gestapo, etc.
It's true that these national defense establishments also fought for Hitler's cause but, unlike the SS and other Party related branches, they institutionally obeyed the rules of war and included legal offices to try and punish violators. As a result, the Wehrmacht wasn't charged a criminal organization after the war unlike the SS. This is a distinctive difference which makes it acceptable in our opinion to portray these services as regular German fighting forces in reenactment settings.
A: There are important differences. While the SS (including Waffen-SS) has been declared a criminal organization by the International Court of Justice in 1946; the same court relieved the Wehrmacht of the same charges.
Well-disciplined national armed forces that maintain legal measures for trying and punishing members who violate international law are considered legitimate fighting forces and not criminal organizations. Unlike the SS, the Wehrmacht institutionally adhered to international laws of warfare and maintained a very active Bureau for the Investigation of War Crimes (Wehrmacht Untersuchungsstelle für Verletzungen des Völkerrechts) throughout World War II. It actively investigated and punished Wehrmacht personnel for alleged violations of the laws and customs of war. Examples are harsh punishments given out for the killing of British prisoners of war during 1942 in Africa.
Thus, although the Wehrmacht as well as all other legitimate fighting
forces during WWII committed war crimes, they cannot be compared to an
organization institutionally charged as criminal like the SS and its inclusive
A: The disclaimer specifically states: ďWith our disclaimer, we want to participate in an active role that prevents and discourages groups and persons who, either deliberately or unwittingly, depict National Socialist personnel or spread National Socialist or like ideology by representing Nazi political organizations, Nazi-related branch components or any symbols and regalia employed by them."
In other words, "any symbols and regalia" are discouraged if employed by Nazi political organizations or Nazi-related branch organizations. The Heer (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Kriegsmarine (Navy) were the three separate traditional services of the German national defense establishment. They had unique eagle and swastika combinations which were different, either in design or placement, from the political organizations of the Nazi Party or its branch organizations.
A: Our declaration states, ďWe do not want to contribute to any historical falsification of the Third Reich era by refusing representation of its political organizations. The extraordinarily problematic nature of the inhuman ideological-political National Socialist objective, and the resulting immeasurable atrocities conducted by their military and paramilitary organizations, is morally unacceptable and cannot be adequately reenacted in a living history setting without the danger of simplifying or glossing over real history. Therefore, we expressly endorse complete enlightenment of this historical subject through active exhibitions, documentaries, biographies, and other adequate educational methods not including reenactment.Ē
In other words, we proudly associate with museums, libraries, reenactment groups who use alternative means of education, film, TV, documentary, authors, collectors and anyone in fact who has an interest in truly explaining the horrific deeds of the former criminal racist NSDAP (Nazi Party); its inhumane objectives and workings; its mass execution and deportation machinery, and its inhuman butchery processes Ė but who do not dress up and masquerade to make favorable propaganda for the SS story.
A: It is neither an acceptably popular nor "fun" activity to portray a despicable racist criminal organization such as the SS, especially when the net result damages the reenactment community in the mind of the population. It is the SS and its cohorts who advance hatred and bigotry, not those of us opposed to the SS in any way, shape or form.
Of course, you can enjoy this hobby and have fun in many ways while doing it, but naming it a "fun hobby" is disrespectful to all who lived through the horror of war, especially the victims of the SS. To reenact wartime requires sensibility, responsibility and respect for those who experienced it, served, suffered or died.
A: We don't see any disadvantages for the Reenactment / Living History Community if the Waffen-SS reenactment is pushed underground and vanishes from public view. We think it's much more dangerous to give certain reenactors a public platform to glorify NS ideology or downplay Nazi crimes. Open public performances gives them a venue to spread neo-fascist propaganda and recruit more naive followers. Such activity will become much more difficult if they are driven "underground" and away from public sight at reenactment events and other gatherings attended by the population.
A: Inside Europe, it is usual to provide a contact on websites where
the name and address of the person who is responsible for the website is
given. However, when the idea of this international agreement was raised,
hateful and unreasonable threats were made against it -- especially against
anyone supporting it in public. Therefore, it's imperative to protect individuals
against harmful action. As a result, we chose a server for hosting the
website outside the European Union where a named contact is not mandated.
Additionally, all groups listed on this website stand behind the declaration
(which is the work of many people), so we don't hide our identity.