Nazi or nerd?
That's the question hovering over GOP congressional candidate Rich Iott, after a photo of him posing in a Nazi uniform surfaced online this weekend.
Iott, a Tea Party favorite who is running for a seat in Ohio's ninth district, says he is not a Nazi sympathizer but a history buff who liked participating in historical re-enactments.
"It's purely historical interest in World War II," Iott told The Atlantic after the magazine discovered the photo.
But Eric Cantor, House Republican Whip (R.-Va), slammed Iott, telling Fox News Sunday, "I would absolutely repudiate that and do not support an individual who would do something like that."
Iott has admitted being involved with the WWII historical re-enactment society Wiking for many years, and the organization’s rosters reportedly show him being a member as early as 2003. He said he joined "as a father-son bonding thing" but quit in 2007 when his son was no longer interested.
The society models itself on the Wiking division of the SS, Hitler’s Nazi military force. In the controversial photo, Iott grins while wearing a Waffen-SS uniform.
Iott says his interest in the group came not from Nazi leanings but from a respect for their tactical accomplishments during WWII. “They took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them,” he told the Atlantic. "From a purely historical military point of view that's incredible."
He chose the Wiking unit, he said, because the real-life division fought against the Russian Army, not American or British soldiers.
Historians, however, take issue with this version of events.
"The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of 'subhumans,'" military historian Rob Citino told the Atlantic. "The multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether…It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend."
Sunday, October 10, 2010
From the NY Daily News: