In a recent WWII Days reenactment, some participants played the Nazis — we talked to them about why they do it
Young WWII re-enactors portray German soldiers at the Rockford World War II Days event on Sept. 24, 2022, in Rockford, Illinois. - E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Someone has to play the bad guy. Someone has to play the Nazi. Otherwise, how do you teach history? I heard this a lot. Whenever I would ask anyone portraying a German soldier at Rockford, Illinois’ annual World War II Days about why they had chosen to reenact a soldier on the Axis side of the war, eventually, almost to the person, after offering many different reasons, they would adopt a sheepish grin and say: Because someone has to. Besides, they would usually add, they were not playing the bad Germans. They were playing schmucks, the lowest of the low, conscripted men who feared what would ...