Rich Iott is the Republican candidate to represent Ohio’s Ninth Congressional District, a seat now held by Democrat Marcy Kaptur. But as Josh Green of the Atlantic points out, Iott has had a rather unusual hobby for someone with ambitions of serving his country in Congress.
He likes to dress up in the uniform of the Waffen SS.
For several years, in fact, Iott was a member of a group calling itself the Wikings, created to honor those who fought in World War II in the 5th SS Panzer Division. The division comprised volunteers to the Nazi cause drawn from outside Germany. As the Wiking site explains:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a “New and Free Europe”, free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Idealists, in the name of a better tomorrow, motivated by a basic desire to be free. Lovely.
As the Wiking site goes on to explain, “It is our aim to bring you a bit of actual history behind the men who fought against the “Bolshevik scourge”; volunteers who came from the various Northern European countries allied with Hitler’s Germany who only had a desire to see an end to Soviet Communism.”
Iott explains his former hobby by likening it to Civil War re-enacters, noting that “you couldn’t do Civil War re-enacting if somebody didn’t play the role of the Confederates.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things,” Iott told Green. “I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that’s incredible.”
Iott’s explanation, strained as it is, might be slightly more convincing if he and his friends had chosen to emulate a standard unit of the German Army, or Wehrmacht. The moral culpability of draftees conscripted into the German military is at least arguable.
Instead, they chose to emulate a division of the Waffen SS, a volunteer arm of the Nazi Party that played a prominent role in the wholesale slaughter of 6 million Jews and millions of other “undesirables.” In fact. the infamous Josef Mengele served in the 5th division early in the war, and it was directly implicated in several mass murders of Jewish captives.
Armed with this information, the people of the Ohio Ninth will no doubt cast their own judgment on Iott at the ballot box this November. But what I find fascinating is the reaction to the discovery. Here we’ve got a congressional candidate as a member of a group touting Nazi SS volunteers as idealists fighting for freedom, yet prominent right-wing blogs (here and here and here, for example) are defending Iott as a victim of liberal smears.
Green is creating an issue where one really doesn’t exist, we’re told, because dressing like the Waffen SS is “basically like the reenactors who play the Red Coats in American Revolution reenactments.” This is just another example of “shoddy political hackery” by liberal journalists, a “pathetic attack” by leftists ready to “smear anyone for anything if they think it might help them hold onto power.”
In other words, they’re all right with this behavior, and are willing to defend it.