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Published: Friday, 10/22/2010

Veterans' group posts defense for re-enactors

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The World War II German re-enactment group that once counted congressional candidate Rich Iott as a member has posted a defense of itself on the Internet.

The re-enactment group for Nazi Germany's 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking placed a link on its Web site to a sympathetic ally, the Mid-Michigan All Airborne Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, which describes itself as a nonpolitical American veterans' organization.

The link appeared on wiking.org several days after revelations of the Republican candidate's involvement in Waffen SS war re-enactments grabbed national headlines. The Waffen SS formed the protective guard of the Nazi party; its Wiking Division Panzer was one of 38 Waffen SS divisions.

"Any person or political group who believes there is some bizarre hidden Nazi agenda by re-enactors is not only ignorant of the facts but using false representation to foster their own political ambition and beneath contempt," states an open letter or "dispatch" on the airborne group's Web site, midmichigan82abn.org.

"Would these same accusers point a finger at Civil War Confederate re-enactors and say they are all racially prejudice [sic]?" the letter asks.

The airborne group, which includes paratroopers and glidermen, says its members act as "referees" for World War II re-enactment groups, including the Waffen SS re-enactment group in which Mr. Iott participated.

The Wiking group's Web site directs those with questions regarding the recent "issues" to the airborne chapter's public relations official, who could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Mr. Iott said he has participated in Wiking re-enactments, but emphasized that he is not a Nazi sympathizer and that he re-enacts war conflicts in part to teach people about history. He said he has never worn a swastika.

Mr. Iott of Monclova Township ran the former Seaway Food Town chain of grocery stores.

He hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

Though the airborne chapter's letter does not mention Mr. Iott by name, it appears to address the candidate's public-relations flap.

"If anyone would have well founded objections, or observed any Nazi sympathetic comments or actions it would certainly be us," the letter states.

"To use an educational hobby which provides a teaching tool for all Americans in some twisted political game is not only omitting the facts, but a blatant lie."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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