Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ostfront WWII Reenacting

The real Sicherungs-Regiment 195 served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts in WWII, and this gives our reenactment group a very wide range of impressions we can portray. But when we choose scenarios for our immersion events, we generally portray I./Sich.Rgt. 195 (later Sich.Btl. 1008) in Russia, November 1943-June 1944. There are many reasons for this focus on the "Ostfront" (Eastern Front). For one thing, life in the eastern theater of operations was the most typical experience for the Landser of WWII. 70 percent of German soldiers stationed outside of Germany served exclusively on the Ostfront, and of the remaining 30 percent many or most served in the East at some point or another. Furthermore, where we live, Ostfront settings are easier to portray realistically at the event sites we have to work with. Western Europe is a very densely populated place and even the forests and open spaces are managed and maintained. Soldiers in places like France were generally quartered in cities and towns, those at the front often took shelter in basements and in bunker systems. Russia and other parts of eastern Europe, by comparison, are partially very sparsely populated and open spaces are extensive with vast trackless forests and swamps. Soldiers were frequently forced to sleep in the open or make do with whatever shelters they could construct. We generally don't have period European buildings to sleep in and a lonely tent at the edge of a forest works best for Ostfront scenarios, for us.

Because we focus on immersion events, it's not necessary for us to have an "opponent" to have a successful reenactment. At times, though, the presence of an opposing force can add realism to our activities in the field. We are lucky to have a top-notch Red Army reenactment group in our region, the Third Rifle Division. They share our desire to create realistic representations of history.

Here is an article written last year about the growth of Red Army reenacting worldwide. One reenactor in that article calls the Soviet impression the fastest-growing impression in WWII reenacting. We feel that it may in fact be the only part of WWII reenacting that is growing at all right now. Russian impressions seem to us to appeal to people who share our outlook about historical reenacting, for many of the reasons described in the article. The relatively low cost of the kit makes the hobby accessible to young people with new ideas, and the mundane nature of the weapons and gear seem to discourage supermen looking to be elite warriors. Women can also participate in a more realistic way.

We have noticed that this international increase in interest in reenacting the Eastern Front has manifested here in New England as well, with a number of developments in the last year alone:

-Formation of a second local Red Army unit
-Debut of a Finnish unit
-Formation of a Partisan unit attached to the Third Rifle Division
-Premiere of a new Ostfront reenactment event in Vermont

Reenactors interested in recreating the war in the East now have more options than ever. The possibilities are vast. We believe that there is a significant possibility for growth and expansion in this segment of the hobby in the near future, and we find that exciting. Our reenactment group has resolved to continue to prioritize and promote Ostfront reenactment events. We are also working to strengthen ties with other local groups that also focus on these events. Beyond that, we intend to act as ambassadors for Ostfront reenacting in every way, even to try to draw recruits in for Red Army and Partisan units if possible. We encourage any local people interested in taking part in these recreations to get in touch with us via e-mail.