A man walks into a bar dressed like a Nazi. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, until you realise that someone actually did just that last Saturday but in a Wimpy restaurant in Bloemfontein (which is almost another bad joke right there).
The joke’s on us though, because far too many people think he did nothing wrong. Why? Because there was a historical re-enactment outside Bloemfontein last weekend commemorating the 78th anniversary of the start of Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941.
So, we’re all overreacting says White Twitter.
Thanks to Kanya Mofokeng, who overcame her utter disbelief to film this and post it to social media, we can see this fat middle-aged man in his SS officer’s tunic, complete with bright red swastika armband, blithely tucking into his meal.
I wonder which part of the SS he was play-acting as.
Was he one of the Das Reich division which went on to massacre 642 French men women and children in the village of Oradour sur Glane just after D-Day in 1944 or hang 99 men in the nearby village of Tulle the day before on June 9 before sending 149 more to Dachau?
Or was he pretending to be part of the SS Cavalry Division that slaughtered 3000 unarmed Russians before poisoning the wells as part of its contribution to Barbarossa? Or was he just one of the SS Police regiment sent in to find Jews and other Untermensch and either exterminate them or send the ones he missed to the concentration camps?
If the History Channel didn’t do it for him and he had to dress up, why didn’t he choose any one of the numerically far more significant (though far less outrageous) German Wehrmacht? But even if we concede his right to re-enact historic events and dress up for authenticity, what about afterwards?
David Saks, the associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, put it best this week: “So long as swastikas and similarly controversial symbols are displayed in a bona fide educational or historical commemoration context this is acceptable.
“However, when they are displayed outside those contexts it amounts to propagating the ideology associated with those symbols, even if this is not the intention. Quite rightly, this causes great offence, and, at the very least, it should be strongly discouraged, particularly in a country like ours, where there are deep sensitivities over displays of racial prejudice.”
Saks is spot on. In fact, we should start applying precisely this logic to public displays of the old South African flag.
The question is, would this wannabe have gone to Norwood or Sea Point for a bite to eat looking like this last Saturday?
So why Bloemfontein? He could have left his tunic in the car and no one would have been any the wiser, but he obviously thought he could get away with making his little statement.
And for that, he should get what he so obviously deserves in both the courts of public opinion and the law.
* Kevin Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.