On blogging - and Nazis on railways

June 12, 2012  •  1 Comment

Sorry for the gap in blogging folks but the problem has been too many things to talk about rather then not enough. Oh, that and writing words for a living rather than fun.

I’ve much to catch up on, such as the vagaries of the freelance world, Railfest, the new camera and also stuff about recent travels. I’ll try and make a start later this week.

One thing that has caught my attention recently has been the bad publicity and media storm the East Lancashire Railway has been caught up in when Fleet St picked up on stories of people parading in (the worst kind of) Nazi uniforms at a recent war event. Previous comments from an offended Jewish couple to the MEN made things worse. All this has been covered in several national newspapers with a circulation of many millions. To paraphrase the old adage ‘you just can’t buy bad publicity like that’

Meanwhile, there’s a very thoughtful, insightful and intelligent open letter by Rabbi Walter Rothschild on ‘Railway Eye’ that preserved railways would do well to pay attention to. The Rabbi is also a railway enthusiast, well placed to understand both sides of the argument. You can find it here if you cut and paste the link:

http://railwayeye.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/war-crime-on-east-lancs.html

What this storm proves is how out of their depth some preserved railways are dealing with such negative publicity. It seems the ELR’s approach is to be reactive rather than proactive, blaming the media and others for the storm that many observers have seen coming for a long time. The truth is that the responsibility lies with the railways for lax supervision of these war groups, not on the media for reporting what happens after they turn up. Engagement, a bit of contrition and showing a willingness to deal with the problem is a far better tactic for pouring oil on troubled waters than finger pointing or ducking responsibility.

 Like many others I really can’t understand why preserved railways still allow people in Axis uniforms to parade around their railways. They add nothing to historical accuracy but the potential for it all to go ‘Pete Tong’ is huge – and proven (remember the infamous mock execution elsewhere?). The message should be loud and clear, certain uniforms and behaviour is beyond the pale and if people insist on turning up like that they’ll be ejected forthwith.

Perhaps the wiser heads at the Heritage Railway Association should consider issuing guidance to their members on this issue before the next storm hits - as it inevitably will – unless railways get a grip.  

 


Comments

Robert Day(non-registered)
A timely post, Paul. The rabbi's letter is especially good.

The question of interest in the technology and trappings of the Third Reich is a difficult one. There are Wehrmacht reconstruction groups in the UK, but those that I have seen have specifically stated that political issues are forbidden and that their aim is to reconstruct the Wehrmacht and specifically NOT the Waffen-SS. This means that those whose interest verges towards the darker side are specifically excluded; quite possibly, like finds like and there may well be groups of Waffen-SS memorabilia collectors and reconstructionists who are casting around for some sort of recognition and respectability and who would seize on an event like the ELR's to parade themselves. (Well, 'respectability' is perhaps the wrong word.)

Sadly, because we were lucky enough not to experience the full dreadfulness of the Third Reich, there are some in this country who take the whole WW2 experience as a real-life version of 'Dad's Army' or ''Allo 'Allo', and who can't understand why other people get upset by their light-hearted treatment of the subject. There are also some who look for "balance" or believe in some right to exercise their freedom of expression. Well, with freedom comes responsibility.

I do find it odd that UK preserved railways consider that there is a role for German reconstructionists in WW2 themed events (unless they happen to have German engines and rolling stock to hand to make an authentic experience). Alternate histories where Germany wins are a rather esoteric excuse to use in this instance and most people won't really recognise or appreciate that scenario.

And the suggestion that people "dress up as holocaust victims" is inexcusable.

The best comment I've heard on this subject came from a British writer on German railways in wartime, who said "do not confuse fascination with admiration". Perhaps a few more people need to take that on board.
No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January February (8) March (15) April (4) May (4) June (1) July August September (1) October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December