Bury re-enactment: still there were Nazis

An SS man in Bury

An SS man in Bury

A Holocaust survivor said she was "burning inside" after Nazi impersonators wore SS uniforms in front of hundreds of people at a wartime re-enactment event last weekend.

Organisers of the East Lancashire Railway's wartime weekend failed to enforce their own ban on displays of Nazism, when official actors performed a staged German invasion. They wore SS combat uniforms, insignia and swastikas rather than regular German soldier outfits.

The railway's bosses previously claimed only uninvited members of the public attended as Nazis. Staff made extensive efforts, posting Nazi ban warning notices on its stations and website, following repeated protests from Manchester's Jewish community that Nazi displays deeply upset Holocaust survivors. On Saturday two unofficial Nazi impersonators were told to leave. ELR's Andy Coward said the ban had been a success and he was "extremely disappointed" if the railway's extensive efforts were not viewed as good enough.

He said: "Until we have spoken to the re-enactment group, there is not much we can say. You have to take it up with them why they choose to dress like that. The battle re-enactments are excellent and highly entertaining. But it is very disappointing to try our best to work with the local Jewish community and to feel that the action we've taken is still not good enough. I hope you understand how frustrating it is that we hold an event that thousands of people attend and enjoy, and we get calls about it afterwards. It's publicity we don't want."

But 77-year-old Sara Kraus, from Salford, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen who came to the UK in 1955, saw national newspapers splash images of the re-enactment across its pages.

"It burns in me. Why dress as SS? Let them take any other uniform. In the war, the SS were not human. They came in with big sandwiches into the concentration camp while we were starving. They would eat for two or three hours while making us stand there. I fainted every day. I was just 10 years old. I saw skeletons, every day, being carted out in Bergen-Belsen.

"In Hungary the SS searched for my family. They were everywhere and they rounded up all the children. A cousin of my mother in Auschwitz pulled her daughter alive from a heap of dead people. The SS were throwing the bodies into piles.

"The memory of these people should be rotting, not brought to life by a re-enactment."

Most of the crowds at last weekend's three-day event wore 1940s dress or British or American military uniforms. Period military vehicles and entertainment added to the cheerful atmosphere for thousands of visitors and enthusiasts at one of the country's largest wartime re-enactment events.

Manchester's Jewish Representative Council president Lucille Cohen praised the efforts of the railway, but said: "Some people have written on the internet, saying 'it's history, get over it.' But to many people today it's still a living nightmare."

    Last updated: 12:14pm, June 2 2011