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Rich Iott -- a Nazi bit of reenacting work

It's all over the news.

Rich Iott, Tea Party candidate for a House seat from Ohio, has been known to dress up as a Nazi on weekends.


This revelation has been making the rounds, generating frenzied attacks and equally frenzied defenses. Nazi reenactor? How horrifying!

Well, sure. But I think the phrase bears taking apart. Nazi? Clearly a problem. Reenactor? There's a more subtle objection.

Reenactment is America's new peculiar institution. Thousands of people pile into rusty pick-ups each weekend to go relive moments from our nation's past, or the French and Indian War, or something. So far, the biggest turnout was at Gettysburg in 1998, when 41,000 people showed. That's practically as many as were there the first time!

As a former reenactor myself, I think Rich Iott's weekend behavior bears more scrutiny. You know how modern psychology and received wisdom urge us not to dwell on things that have gone badly in the past? There's another word for "dwelling on things that have gone badly in the past," and that word is "reenacting."

Especially if you're on the wrong side, it's tantamount to returning to your elementary school and urging that one kid to kick you in the reproductive zone and cast aspersions on your home life. If you enjoy it, you're made of stronger stuff than I am!

And Rich Iott clearly enjoys it.

Even his Jewish friend who apparently testified to his character says Iott's more than just a Nazi reenactor: He also reenacts other things! Iott says he's also dressed as a World War I doughboy and represented both sides of the Civil War.

That's not abnormal at all! As Americans, we have a constitutional weakness for things that require us to dress up in silly outfits and wander around looking somewhere on the scale between indignant and constipated. How else to account for the popularity of tourism, the Freemasons, or the revived success of Colonial Williamsburg?

In a way, the entire Tea Party is a band of rogue reenactors who got way, way out of hand. They even have those vintage "Don't Tread On Me" flags! It's easy to see why people are so excited by this movement. Thousands of people participate in reenactments every year! Especially with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War coming up, it remains a vibrant national pastime. There's nothing like driving out into the countryside every weekend to relive a humiliating defeat from 150 years ago while wearing uncomfortable clothes. I know. I've done it myself. Once, I got a tick! But I consoled myself by imagining that this happened to Stonewall Jackson all the time.

But sometimes reenacted and real life overlap in bizarre ways. Colonial Williamsburg, for instance, has a whole post on its website about immigration reform. Really? I understand that "Colonial Williamsburg: That The Future May Learn From The Past," is a more compelling slogan than "Colonial Williamsburg: That Those Who Forgot To Buy Tickets To Busch Gardens May Stand Around Resentfully While A Guy In Stockings Pretends Not To Know What Airplanes Are." But do they have to go so far?

And there are different shades of reenacting.

When reenacting the Civil War, it's acceptable to go as a Confederate. In fact, whenever I see a Civil War reenactment, I always wonder how the Confederacy lost. They vastly outnumber their Union counterparts, and they seem to have so much more spirit, the kind you never see for other lost causes like, say, the Byzantine Empire. Still, Confederate history is bound up with the national stain of slavery, and it would be wrong to suggest that a man in over-enthusiastic gray doesn't inspire a frisson of discomfort. But so many other associations -- regional, romantic, nostalgic, military interest -- hover around the gray ranks of the people refighting the War of Northern Aggression, that if Iott had acknowledged only that he was a Confederate reenactor, we might not have blinked an eye. The Confederacy is a legitimate part of our national history.

Unlike, say, the Third Reich, or even the first or second Reichs.

Frankly, Nazi attire is fraught with meaning that Confederate garb isn't. Both causes combined atrocities with a period of martial prowess, but the Nazis aren't even local! Dressing up as a Nazi in Ohio seems like going to France and dressing as, er, an evil Toussaint L'Ouverture. And Iott's and the Wikings' whitewashed account of their military prowess is beyond absurd.

Besides, the usual impetus behind all reenacting isn't the people who won saying, "That was incredible! Let's relive that!" It's the losers -- asking for a do-over.

So the fact that anyone would want to reenact as a Nazi, even if he's not a real Nazi, concerns me. Still, not to be a Nazi apologist -- arguably the worst way to begin a sentence, short of "No offense, but" or "I don't think it's racist to say" or "You'll agree that it was manslaughter after I tell you" -- I think part of what he's saying is true: just as you can't reenact the Civil War without the Confederates, you can't reenact World War II without the Nazis

To someone like me, the way of solving this would appear to be for everyone to get together, acknowledge that pretending to be a Nazi is a painful duty, and draw straws every week, or something, passing around the same helmet and boots. Everyone understands that dressing up as a Nazi is never a good career move. It wasn't even a good career move for the actual Nazis. And remember when Prince Harry tried it? That worked badly! No one actively wants to reenact as a Nazi, right?


That's the trouble with reenacting.

Iott says he reenacts so we "never forget." But if he can separate the Nazi uniform from the Nazi mentality, I think he's forgotten already.

You know what they say: those who don't learn from history are doomed to reenact it. Dressed as Nazis.

By Alexandra Petri  | October 12, 2010; 1:18 PM ET
Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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This leftist Jewish crap. There were a lot of ordinary German soldiers who served their country as I served my country during the Vietnam War. I had no control or influence over the policies of the United States any more than the average German Soldier did. Let it go. Give it up. It's ancient history. Armies throughout history have committed atrocities, including the US Army of which I am a proud veteran.

Posted by: VastRightWingConspirator | October 12, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so it's OK to discriminate against re-enactors...

Does the wapo have a list of things its ok to discriminate against?

Was it ok for me to discriminate against the spoiled milk this morning?

Posted by: docwhocuts | October 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Ohio Nazi re-enactors. I HATE Ohio Nazi re-enactors.

Posted by: Potter2 | October 12, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Good job guywhoclaimstobeadoc and VastRightWingConspirator, congrats on being the first wingnuts to defend Nazism.

Posted by: grantmh | October 12, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the northern Ohio candiate is a closet Dead Boys fan. Hey, it's not like Iott hacked for the DHS, or guided CIA drone plane strikes on the weekends; pretending to be a Nazi is a painful duty, indeed.

Posted by: oronocostrasse | October 12, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Rich Iott's troubling behavior is not limited to sympathizing with the Nazi Waffen SS. He has made racist remarks and doesn't support equal accommodations laws. One incident involved refusing to let a black man dressed as Santa ride on a float in a holiday parade his company sponsored. Another, referring to people of color as thieves and sacrificers of animals. Iott also opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

And, let's be clear that many of the people who love being Confederates in re-enactions are in fact contemporary neo-Confederates. Their movement is growing, partly as a reaction to the election of an African-American President.

Posted by: query0 | October 12, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

These guys are just a bunch of history nerds. Nothing more nothing less. I don't even see any swastikas in the picture.

Posted by: Jsuf | October 12, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

So if I understand correctly it is okay to portray a group of Americans who enslave, whip, mistreat, brand, and kill other Americans.

Are we talking about Confederates or Democrats? After all, the head Democrats have professed admiration for the Chinese Communist Party and their ability to "get things done!".

This sort of smearjounalism will continue and crescendo on Nov 2. The reason is simple: after having been in power for 4 years now and after spending trillions of dollars our Nation has nothing to show for this Democratic intervention.

Even their "successes" belong to others. Geithner just reported TARP will return a PROFIT (an outcome good Democrats pretend to despise) but that program was the plan of a Republican president bequeathed to a Democrat to follow the instructions.

Really Petri, one Teaparty candidate likes to re-enact WWII and you're ready to deport all of them?

By the way, what costume will you wear on Halloween? The village idiot?

Posted by: krankyman | October 12, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

VastRightWingConspirator: You'll never never "Give it up. It's ancient history."
You've had 40 years of voting to exercise e"control or influence over U.S. policies."
You voted for "Dubya" in 2000 knowing full well that draft dodger would start a war.
(Just as I voted against the scumbag for the same reason.)You vote for war and "atrocities" every time you can, "throughout history." -- Viet Nam vet

Posted by: dab12647 | October 12, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

query0 wrote:
"And, let's be clear that many of the people who love being Confederates in re-enactions are in fact contemporary neo-Confederates. Their movement is growing, partly as a reaction to the election of an African-American President."

Query0 chided me last night for my defense of my reenacting as a Confederate soldier, saying that it is troubling that I would associate with neo-Confederates, even though I am most decidedly NOT one (and I said so).

In fact, there ARE unsavory bigots who are also Confederate reenactors. And for all I know, the numbers of neo-Confederates MAY be growing among Confederate reenactors, not that query0 has proven it to be true, and not that that's my experience, because it isn't. For that matter, I'm know for certain that there are UNION reenactors who are benighted bigots, while others are paragons of virtue. But that STILL misses the point, namely, that one can engage in what Petri rather ambivalently calls a "vibrant national pastime" without espousing the viewpoints of those one portrays (for the record, I do not portray an actual _historical_ individual, just another anonymous poor grunt soldier, but my point remains).

I don't get to vote for or against Iott. If I did live in that Ohio district and discovered that Iott is the bigot query0 claims him to be, I wouldn't vote for him. But if bigotry were not an issue, I'd be more likely to vote against Iott for being a wingnut dipstick than I would because he put on an SS shirt.

Bottom line: my reenACTING as a Confederate makes me neither a bigot nor a neo-Confederate, even if that may be true for some others. Be careful of painting with too broad a brush. Not everyone who opposes Obama is a racist, and not everyone who supports him (including centrist old me, probably as often as not) is a commie.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | October 12, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Rich Iott is a Holocaust reenactor.


Posted by: Nessus | October 12, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Imagine how Republican leaders such as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would be reacting if a film surfaced showing Harry Reid prancing around in a Nazi uniform.

Do you suppose they be saying that it was all just harmless fun?

Goes to show the core Republican tenant: It's not really wrong when Republicans do it, just when anyone else does it.

Posted by: Miss_Fedelm | October 12, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Someone is being oversensitive. I repeat: Many modern neo-Confederates are attracted to re-enacting. But, that does not mean everyone who participates is a neo-Confederate. Though Alexandra seems naive about what the Confederates were fighting for (continuing chattel slavery in perpetuity), I don't believe she is a neo-Confederate.

Above, I set out other evidence that supports Rich Iott having a race problem. The most important evidence is that which has import if such a person is elected to Congress. Iott opposes the federal law that requires public accommodations be equally open to all regardless of race or ethnicity. Repealing that law would thrust the U.S. back into the apartheid of the South and parts of the West before it was passed. We should be very concerned that someone like Iott is seeking public office.

Posted by: query0 | October 12, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

vastrightwingconspirator, you've missed the fact that Iott did not choose to play a German solder. He is portraying a member of the Waffen SS. The SS were NOT a part of the German military but were an armed element of the Nazi Party itself. As I said in the comments on another story, while members of the Wehrmacht may have not thought anything about politics those Germans who joined the Waffen SS were dedicated ideologues who enacted the worst of the Nazi atrocities. After V-E Day the jurists of the Nuremberg tribunal ruled that the Waffen SS was a criminal organization, not a branch of the German military. The post-war German government itself decided Waffen SS members would not be eligible for the veterans' benefits provided to those who had fought in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe or the Kreigsmarine. That is what I find troubling in a potential member of Congress -- not that Iott is a reenactor, not that Iott is reenacting WW2, but that Iott chose to buy the uniform and pretend to be a war criminal for his personal enjoyment.

Posted by: greggwiggins | October 12, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Let us face facts. This is no more and no less than an election year ploy.

And of course, for the ploy to work, people have to pretend to BE shocked.
Perhaps they even convince themselves that they are shocked.

"What? He re-enacted as a Nazi? Must be taken off the ballot!"

What about Lawrence Olivier dressing up as Othello? Racist, right?

No, there is a "fine" distinction. Olivier did it for money so that makes it OK. But Iott did it without being paid. So that is bad.

It is the opposite of prostitution. If you are paid, THEN that is bad. If you are not paid, you were just having a good time.

Life is getting more complex and more confused by the minute. I wish Petri had shown a little sense of perspective.

Posted by: rjpal | October 12, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

They changed their website, wiking did. Before there was no evidence of their having participated in fake battles. Now you can see the record plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with this group whatsoever. Very, very difficult is understanding a battle. Reenactment is a good way of learning this. If you can pretend to be Iago or Richard III, you can pretend to be a Nazi soldier. I'd like to do this myself someday. WWII was the most horrific of all wars. Above all it was the aggressive war of the Nazis that was horrific. The more people learn about the MILITARY HISTORY of WWII, the better.

Posted by: Martial | October 12, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Tea-jerks and Nazi-Syms can excuse all they want, but this is seriously serious and not to be taken lightly. Our ancestors were in the Civil War. We were NOT Nazis. If any were, you probably need to be investigated.

Posted by: MadamDeb | October 12, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

VastRightWingnut: Nice to know that you're a bigot antisemite! And a vet, too! You're a disgrace to the US Army, vet or not. How in hell can you defend nazis, after so many true patriots (unlike you) died to defeat them? SS were not the "average soldier;" only fanatic Nazis were allowed in the SS. But that's ok with you, it seems. Let me guess, you're a teabagger too. Am I right? You betcha!

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | October 12, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

It's kinda redundant for a repug to dress up as a Nazi.

Posted by: solsticebelle | October 12, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Imagine the howling of the teabaggers et al. (including VastRightWingnut for sure!)if a Democratic candidate was photographed in a SS uniform. Double standard? You betcha!

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | October 12, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

It was the aggressive war of the Nazis and Hirohito's monsters that was the chief thing, all else being subordinate. To quote Justice Jackson:

The aggressive war phase of the case against the Nazi conspirators is, in the view of the American prosecution, the heart of the case. Everything else in this case, however dramatic, however sordid, however shocking and revolting to the common instinct of civilized peoples, is incidental or subordinate to, the fact of aggressive war.

All the dramatic story of what went on in Germany in the early phases of the conspiracy-the ideologies used, the techniques of terror used, the suppressions of human freedom employed in the seizure of power, and even the concentration camps and the crimes against humanity, the persecutions, tortures and murders committed-all these things would have had little international juridical significance except for the fact that they were the preparation for the commission of aggressions against peaceful neighboring peoples. Even the aspects of the case involving "war crimes" in the strict sense are merely the inevitable, proximate result of the wars of aggression launched and waged by these conspirators, and of the kind of warfare they waged. It was total war, the natural result of the totalitarian party-dominated state that waged it; it was atrocious war, the natural result of the doctrines, designs and purposes of the Nazi conspirators.

Had the Nazi's not conquered country after country, the Holocaust would never have occurred. There simply were not that many Jews in Germany. Learning about that horrific MILITARY struggle is the most important thing one can do to prevent another Holocaust. Such study also prevents nonsensical comparisons, such as Israel = Nazi Germany. Israel never conquered an entire continent and never will.

Posted by: Martial | October 12, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey Petri - another scattered post. Also, the Confederates alone at Gettysburg numbered close to 75,000 at the height of the battle and Union forces numbered close to 100,000 at the height of the battle - I don't think 41,000 comes close to those numbers - check your history - for a former reenacter you don't seem to know much about what you were reenacting. I don't get offended by Civil War reenactments, but making light of a war in which one side fought not only a war of hatred (slavery) but also for a dissolution of the Union and committed plenty of atrocities (the Union side did as well) speaks volumes regarding your airheaded analysis or attempt at humor - I can't quite figure out for which you are aiming. As to it being a jolly good time to mimic a Confederate, perhaps my great great grandfather would not have found it as amusing. He somehow survived Andersonville and died ten years later from the TB he contracted during his stay at that jolly hotel for prisoners in the South, as you would probably refer to it.

Posted by: fwillyhess | October 12, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

How weird do some of these tea baggers have to get before people decide not to vote for them?
If your baby sitter dressed up as an Nazi SS reenactor? Would you still hire them? If your kid's grade school teacher dressed up as an Nazi SS reenactor? Would you complain to the school board?
Time to restore the sanity.

Posted by: xdougwhite | October 13, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

The key is to begin to study WWII MILITARY history; then you will see Mr. Iott's acts in their proper light. Quite seriously, those attacking this man for doing a good deed owe him an apology. In part, the problem lay with the website, which forgot, for some reason to list the battles. The trouble with reenacting WWII, as opposed to the Civil War, is that air power was tremendously important. Not only do the reenactors lack the planes necessary to produce a realistic Blitzkrieg, in all likelihood if they could obtain them, it would be illegal.

Posted by: Martial | October 13, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Martial wrote: The key is to begin to study WWII MILITARY history; then you will see Mr. Iott's acts in their proper light. Quite seriously, those attacking this man for doing a good deed owe him an apology.

I doubt many crime history buffs scribble a fake swastika tatoos on their forehead and runaround pretending to be Charles Mansion. There is quite a big difference between studying the history of war, and going out to purchase a Nazi uniform to parade around in and take pictures of yourself smiling while you wear it with pride.

Posted by: grantmh | October 13, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Another Tea Party candidate that too far out there for me. when will people wake up and smell the crap, the Tea Party is even too far out there for the Republican Party the majority of their candidates are too extreme for a lot of groups, they remind me of major steps being taken backwards in this country and not moving forward, they have a large unenlighten group of people running for public office, and its all because of people like Sarah Palin that is a spokes person for this group she has bought out the worse of the worse, not the best and brightest.

Posted by: sherobes | October 13, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Martial your statement is too far out have got to be one in their right mind would ever attempt to justify this man dress or behavior other than a fool, and Mr . Lott's actions are very foolish and ill conceive "a Pig wearing a dress is still a Pig"

Posted by: sherobes | October 13, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

and any Jew who would come to this man defense, is like a slave coming to the defense of the klan. evil is evil and should be exposed and not covered up, I am sure there were some idiots that thought Hitler was a great guy too. this man is showing his true self, this man if given the opportunity would do what the German did doing WW2.

Posted by: sherobes | October 13, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Then you need to go out and Arrest every actor that wore such cotumes including Tom Cruise (Nazi Symp.), Robert Duvall (A Stalinist). Be sure you strap on your tin foil helmets real tight.

Posted by: WhoMe6 | October 13, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Martial wrote: The key is to begin to study WWII MILITARY history; then you will see Mr. Iott's acts in their proper light. Quite seriously, those attacking this man for doing a good deed owe him an apology.

I doubt many crime history buffs scribble a fake swastika tatoos on their forehead and runaround pretending to be Charles Mansion. There is quite a big difference between studying the history of war, and going out to purchase a Nazi uniform to parade around in and take pictures of yourself smiling while you wear it with pride.

Posted by: grantmh | October 13, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse


They likely did not parade about town in uniform. If they held a meeting or two in private wearing such uniforms, that is not a problem. By heavens, there were no swastikas, so far as one can tell. Neither was there distributed Nazi propaganda.

A variety of means of learning the MILITARY HISTORY of WWII exist. Reenactment has not been my choice, but if it induces study of the MILITARY HISTORY of the war, it is a good thing. Historians who do not like the website, constructed by laypersons, are obligated to contact the webmaster. Almost certainly they will use the information to best advantage.

For some, books suffice. When learning about the Civil War, no books did the trick for me. Trudging about Manassas battle fields for hours on multiple occasions inculcated the basics of that part of the war. With that wisdom and modern electronic imaging, a much better knowledge of the Civil War resulted. For some, reenactment works best. A far more obnoxious reenactment than a simple battle is very valuable: visit plantations to see people pretending to be rich slave holding Southerners; the presentation, together with appropriate explanation, really drives home the institution's horror.

At Normandy, the Texas Rangers' monument inspires all but the benighted. Before you actually see the cliffs, you cannot appreciate the difficulty of scaling them or how our soldiers were sitting ducks before the Nazi guns. A benefit Texas provided the nation was glider training:

The main thing is learning about the war. Especially important is the Pacific theater, a relatively neglected arena.

Posted by: Martial | October 13, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Here's one point against reenacting WWII. Since you cannot really have air power and there exist excellent videos, dressing up as soldiers would likely not provide anywhere near the realism of the films available on YouTube. Here is a superb series:

More and more such videos are emerging monthly. They are vital educational tools. No words can describe the horror of the Blitzkrieg; the tactic was the reason Hitler conquered Europe. This film and others like it display matters far more effectively.

Posted by: Martial | October 13, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Was Toussaint really evil to make that comparison? Of historical interest -- You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at -- judge for yourself.

Posted by: terra100 | October 14, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Participating in historical enactment does not mean that one is sympathetic to the beliefs of the historical groups involved. It does, however, demonstrate an interest in history, and a willingness to wear a costume.

In regards to the argument that one should be 'more sympathetic' and not participate in Nazi reenactment - this comes from the premise that one is supporting the Nazi's by their mere mention. Should a historian not write a biography of Adolf Hitler? Does his writing of Adolf Hitler necessitate that the writer is unsympathetic to the holocaust? Of course not. Let's stick to the actual issues of Rich Iott's campaign, not emotive smears, shall we?

Posted by: junechristopher1 | October 15, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Leave the poor man alone. He has a right to his beliefs. We fully support him in his views and extend to him an open invitation to become a member of our society, (Goode Olde Flatte Earthe Societie a.k.a GOOFS). Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell have already joined us. God bless Rev. Pat Robertson and Rev Fred Phelps. And we hope Bill Maher, Michael Moore Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow and the Young Turks Uigur all burn in hell.
One of the aims of our Societie is to close down all the libraries, schools and universities in the USA. Who needs Harvard and Yale? We need only Bible classes in America.

Al Zachariah, President, GOOFS

Posted by: alzach01 | October 15, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

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