Let’s make no bones about it, telling your mates or your mum that you like to spend the odd weekend pretending to be a German soldier from WW2 takes some guts. Almost everyone has a family member who risked or lost their lives fighting against Hitler’s army.
And now you want to disrespect them by dressing up as the enemy? WTF??
The truth is that every real German soldier swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Many were ardent supporters of National Socialism and some of them did terrible things. However many real German soldiers were also strongly opposed to National Socialism and the vast majority were no more terrible than the Allied soldiers they were fighting. Fortunately, we’re not real German soldiers. We’re just pretending. We haven’t sworn allegiance to anyone, we don’t shout Sieg Heil and wearing a swastika for an airsoft event no more makes me a Nazi than if I were an actor wearing a swastika in a play or a film, particularly as next month I’ll probably choose to go as an American GI or a Red Army soldier.
Our hobby is about combat units. There is no place for Gestapo, Gaskammer crew, SA, Allgemeine SS or police units at these events. If you don’t know who those people were then look them up. We’re not pretending they didn’t exist, nor are we downplaying what they did. They simply don’t feature on the battlefield.
This was the German regular army and represented about 60% of the German armed forces. Some soldiers were volunteers, some were conscripted.
The Heer wasn’t limited to those of German nationality, foreigners from Europe and the USA also volunteered and some prisoners of war were conscripted into the army. Some men from Africa and India preferred to join the Wehrmacht rather than fight on the side of the British Empire.
The Waffen SS
This is probably the most popular and also the most widely debated German impression. Every German SS soldier was a volunteer, however over half of the Waffen SS was made up of foreign volunteers and conscripts. There were Waffen SS divisions made up of men from Holland, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Sweden. There were Muslim SS divisions from Croatia as well as Latvians, Estonians and Ukrainians. There was even (gasp) a very small group of British SS.
Most importantly, SS runes do not automatically mean death squads, concentration camps or “special action” units. By 1943 the Waffen-SS had more than 246,000 members of which approximately 156,000 were combat troops.
The appeal of this impression is often a love of cool camo and admiration for certain units’ fighting ability rather than an affinity for Heinrich Himmler.
For airsoft this means paratroopers and Luftwaffe ground troops.
Luftwaffe is sometimes seen as the least controversial of all wartime German impressions, which is slightly ironic as the majority of Luftwaffe POWs held in British and American camps during the war were classified as having extreme Nazi sympathies.
Nevertheless, it’s an iconic impression. The Fallschirmjäger were widely feared by the Allies as an elite fighting force and it’s an impression that many WW2 airsoft players enjoy the most.
German Navy Marines, Hitler Youth, and Volkssturm are all possible German roles for future events but these are more one-off impressions.
At the end of the day, being one of the “baddies” is really down to personal choice. If it’s not something you want to do, then don’t do it. Nobody has a right to criticise your choices. It’s only a hobby after all. However, if it’s something that someone else wants to do then you have no right to criticise them either.