Battle begins as Nazis drop in for a beer

By Leon Symons, May 30, 2008

Manchester Jewish leaders have accused a local organisation of breaking a promise by allowing participants in a 1940s weekend to wear Nazi uniforms.

Bolton Street station in Bury, an area with a large Jewish community, was turned by the East Lancashire Railway society into a re-creation of a 1940s war zone at the weekend, with British “Tommies” rubbing shoulders with “Yanks” and “Germans”.

Complaints two years ago about people wearing black SS uniforms led the organisation to ban them and any SS insignia. This was made clear on its website advertisement for this year’s event. However, it said that other German uniforms were acceptable.

But that ban did not satisfy Councillor Michelle Wiseman, chief executive of Manchester Jewish Community Care, nor Rabbi Yehuda Brodie of the Manchester Beth Din.

Cllr Wiseman, who has just been re-elected to Bury Council, said: “We have had a lot of correspondence with this organisation in the last few years. They said it was people depicting the times. As far as I understood it, they had banned all Nazi uniforms.

“We told them it was not appropriate because the Germans were never here. There is nothing wrong with wartime commemorations, but they promised that this wouldn’t happen again, and I am horrified that it has happened once more.

“It’s not just the Jewish community that has been upset, but also war veterans who fought them. Manchester also has a sizeable Polish community, whose country also suffered under the Nazis.”

Manchester Jewish Representative Council president Barbara Goldstone said: “I am not happy about this at all. We have complained about it before and they said things would change, but obviously they haven’t.”

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, registrar of Manchester Beth Din, praised the organisers last year for taking the decision to ban the SS uniforms. But he also believed the ban should apply to all Nazi uniforms.

“The pain caused to any victim of the Nazi horror is still such that any attempt to associate with that would be anathema to any decent person,” said Rabbi Brodie.

“I would urge the organisers again to be even more vigorous and vigilant in stopping this.”

A woman at East Lancashire Railway, who did not want to be named, said those who dressed in Nazi uniforms had come from outside the area.

“There are numerous 1940s events around the country and these people tour them,” she said. “This was something we were aware of and we went to great lengths to make it clear that black SS uniforms and insignia were not allowed.

“The weekend was about the 1940s and the war was a major part of that. People do like to dress up and have fun but we don’t set out to upset anyone.”

When called by the JC, event organiser Neil Parkington said: “I am making my tea and I do not want to speak to you. I do not have to. This is a free country and I speak to who I want to.”

Last updated: 5:01pm, July 22 2009