The event – organized by the nonprofit Military Vehicle Trust – was held over the weekend at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. It was billed as “a really great event for the whole family” that included displays of military vehicles and reenactment shows, as well as “a selection of traders selling military and vintage civilian clothing and collectibles.” The event has been held annually since 2012.
But this year, according to reports in the BBC and The Sun, several attendees were upset to see Nazi insignia on display and Nazi memorabilia for sale.
“There were people dressed as German soldiers, [with] swastikas and Third Reich emblems,” one woman told The Guardian. “I understand the interest in British World War II collectibles, but seeing somebody sell an SS beret like it belonged in a dressing-up box made me sick to my stomach.”
Another attendee told The Guardian, “I saw Nazi badges and some pins, lots of things bearing the swastika and the eagle, were mixed in with other countries’ badges at a stall, and there were price tags on all of them. A hat with the skull [Totenkopf] from the SS uniforms was also for sale.”
Images of the event posted on social media showed some attendees wearing Nazi insignia on their uniforms.
Meg Evans, a spokeswoman for the event, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that many of the reports have been “heavily twisted.”
“A select few were dressed in German War uniform (not SS) as part of reenactments and fashion shows and when we had a small gun show showing different weapons,” Evans said.
She also said a report that a World War II-era yellow Star of David was for sale at the event is simply not true.
The item, Evans said, was “on display with a small notice next to it advising of how the collector came to have the particular object and its history. It certainly was not for sale. It was simply to show another part of history. The collector is horrified that it has caused such an issue.”
She stressed that the event “was not promoting Nazis or anything of the sort, it was showing all sides of the wars. My family have only just recently come back from Jerusalem after celebrating my cousin’s bar mitzvah. This is our history – we wouldn’t ever offend.”
The general secretary of the national Military Vehicle Trust added that the group “does not support Nazism, and never has. The uniforms worn by the re-enactors were those of the German Wehrmacht (the German Army) and incorrectly identified as Nazis. The MVT as an organization does not allow the wearing of SS German uniforms and swastika armbands at our events in case they could cause offense.”
He added the MVT does not sell any memorabilia, but private sellers do so at the event.
The National Trust - which owns the site that hosted the event - told the Post on Friday that it has been in contact with MVT with its concerns.
"The event, which was organised by the Military Vehicle Trust (MVT), included Nazi-era uniforms and memorabilia, which understandably caused distress and led to complaints," a spokesman for the National Trust said. "The MVT has admitted that there were breaches of its code of conduct and we have been clear that this cannot happen again."
The spokesman added that the National Trust does not "have an issue with re-enactments in themselves but do believe they should be done sensitively and in a way that genuinely helps people learn more about the historical context of the period." He said that the National Trust is "looking into what happened at Lacock and will see what lessons can be learnt from it. We also recognize the organizers had no intention of upsetting anyone with their event."