When you head out to Minneapolis' premier German restaurant, Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit, you expect brats and bier and kraut. You might not expect the Third Reich. But then, Christmas is a time for special celebrations.
City Pages got an anonymous tip last week in the form of a photo that appeared to show a Nazi hootenanny at the convivial Teutonic eatery. This week, they heard from a reader who was at the Sieg Heil hoedown—and there's a perfectly good explanation!
Jon Boorom, a member of WWII Historical Re-enactment Society Inc. and owner of the Lakeville Barbers, says he was at the December event depicted in the photo, which he likened to "a Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts."
"All of the German [re-enactment] groups in Minnesota have a Christmas party because we don't typically have events going on in the winter," Boorom says. "It's just like any club that has a party. Because they dress up like Germans from World War II, it's cool to go to a German restaurant, eat German food, and drink German beer."
The restaurant's proprietor declined to comment on the Nazi Party party. (The restaurant's name, by the way, loosely translates to "guesthouse for warm, happy comfort.") But Boroom assures City Pages readers that this is a totally meta and totally respectful practice:
According to Boroom, the Christmas party is an annual event that has been celebrated for 16 years, but only held at Gasthof's for the last six. Outside of that night, members are involved in educational activities, weekend re-enactment events, and films.
He also maintains that members of the German WWII re-enactment groups are given extensive background checks and no neo-Nazis or "political racists" are allowed to take part in the events.
"If you wear a German uniform or a Nazi uniform, it's not like you're saying 'I think Hitler was super cool' or 'I hate Jews' or 'I hate gays' or 'I hate democrats,'" Boroom explains. "You're not there because you believe in what Hitler stood for — you're there to educate people about history, and a lot of that is so people don't forget. It's the same as wanting to be the bad guy when you're playing cowboys and Indians. There's an attraction to the bad side."
Well, that's pretty solid reasoning, aside from the fact that I'm not sure who Boroom thinks are bad guys—cowboys or Indians. And it sure is comforting to know that Nazi re-enactors screen their applicants backgrounds so fastidiously. You know who else was into really extensive background checks?
But let's not get carried away. All we know for sure is there's an attraction to the bad side. And in this case, the bad side is open to including wheelchair-bound Wehrmacht re-enactors in their bier fests. Clearly, these aren't your granddaddy's Nazis.
Meanwhile, the national umbrella group for official World War II reenactors—which Boroom claimed to represent at the Minneapolis party—is distancing itself from the event: