Concerns raised: Were Nazis marching in Dover parade?
DOVER -- Last year, concerns were raised by a town official when he saw a flag emblazoned with a swastika flown in the Time Line event that goes on during the Blueberry Festival, where reenactors bring history to life.
Dover Town Clerk Andy McLean spoke with Living History Association Executive Director Jim Dassatti, who organizes the event.
"He said it's against their bylaws for people to display the swastika the way they were and that he would talk to folks," McLean said. "My issue was with the flag, a big full-sized flag. As far as the representation of these folks and their encampment, I really don't have a problem with that. It's the iconography and in-your-faceness with the flag. Jim said it was against their rules and it wouldn't happen again."
When asked whether reenactors portraying Nazis were allowed to march in this year's Blueberry Parade on July 26, President of LHA Leo Tucker said they were not portraying Nazis but regular members of the Germany army in World War II, and most of those soldiers were not part of the Nazi party. He said Germans put swastikas on everything back then.
"They put it on loaves of bread," he added. "We are the LHA organization. We teach history, therefore, you can't just teach one side of history. These are Americans. They have no Nazi intentions. They're just like you and me."
Last year and in years past, the LHA had a banner that reenactors held up as they marched down Route 100. This year, there was no banner to indicate that reenactors were marching under the Time Line application that the LHA submits to the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. So, it may have been difficult for attendees to understand the motives or purpose of the reenactors portraying German soldiers with swastikas on their uniforms. This year, an organizer was late with getting the banner to the parade.
During the annual Time Line event, which is the association's largest event of the year, Tucker portrayed an American soldier in the Vietnam War. That is most typically how he participates in these types of events.
If someone wanted to dress as Viet Cong, Tucker says they could. Participants can also dress as Confederate soldiers or Japanese soldiers in World War II.
However, there are rules against Time Line reenactors dressing up as the SS, the Nazi corps, involved in the Holocaust.
"We would not allow someone to come and portray Hitler or any one of his cronies," Tucker said. "In other words, what we do is educational."
He also mentioned the reenactors portraying Germans received applause while marching in the parade this year as well as in the past. No one has ever brought up the issue to him face-to-face of them marching, he said.
"We do not tell them you can't do German because Germany was a horrible situation during World War II. They admit that when they talk to the public. They don't preach the Nazi doctrine," said Tucker. "They're as American as we are."
According to Tucker, a group of Jewish students visited and talked with those portraying Germans for an hour last year and had no issue with the portrayal. He said it is important that the LHA does not censor or revise history. The association visits schools as well as continuing education classes.
"Face it, history happened. Yes, some of it was horrible. What happened in Germany in World War II, with death camps and all, was horrible. But they're not the only ones who have ever caused an atrocity," he said, adding that America was involved in genocide with Native Americans. "It's not war when you're giving someone smallpox and cholera to kill them off? No one's got clean hands."
Some reenactors will portray several different eras in similar events throughout the year. In addition to the soldier in Vietnam, Tucker will also portray a Revolutionary War soldier from time to time. And once a year, he will portray an American soldier in World War II as a favor to his son, who is also involved in reenactments events.
There is a group unaffiliated with the LHA that portrays a death camp that handled concentration camps in the Holocaust.
"They're skinheads. There's 10 percent in every crowd. I don't know anyone who has anything to do with them," said Tucker.
One of the sayings in LHA is: "If you got politics, leave it at the gate."
"We are not political as far as what we do. You go in the German camp, they're not preaching Nazism. Soviets are not preaching Marxism. They're telling you what they did in the war, how the war went and so forth and so on," Tucker said. "People who portray Germans do it to teach and educate people. They don't do it to push Nazi propaganda. You probably won't hear it in a camp that isn't negative."
Blueberry Festival coordinator Janet Boyd told the Reformer that applications to march are submitted to the chamber.
"People sign up. Occasionally we have a surprises," she said. "It's not that we don't know they're going to march. Occasionally, we have an antique car and they don't know if they can come."
The LHA has marched in every parade since the Blueberry Festival's inception seven years ago. Boyd said participants in the association's Time Line event travel from all over the state for the event. Reenactors set up camps on Dover Forge property along Route 100, where the parade ends and festival activities continue.
According to livinghistoryassn.org, the Time Line is "an educational walk through man's history and is enjoyable for the whole family, as it is presented with hands on demonstrations."
"Each (camp) has their own set of players with a different point of view, some of which will be contrary to your own. Some may even seem offensive in their ideology. Are the interpreters acting or do they really mean it? They will enthusiastically show you their historical encampments and a huge amount of gear, both reproduction and original," the website stated. "So if you are not afraid of being recruited into the Roman Army of the third century, becoming one of General Washington's camp followers in the 18th century, or even of having your papers asked for by a German World War II military policeman, then this just might be a great event for you and the whole family."
Boyd said what happens in those camps is separate from the parade.
"I think all facets of history are represented. I don't know what they miss or include. It depends on what individuals are available," she added.
Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Membership Director Michelle Mazur told the Reformer all Time Line participants are included in one application that is submitted to the chamber.
"We don't have a say or control in what they're actually doing," she said. "We don't know what they're actually going to be reenacting."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.
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