The gathering, replete with Nazi flags and men clad in uniforms, was a Twin Cities historical society's annual Christmas party. But the party wasn't held in December. It was thrown in January. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no less.
Photos of the party were published this week by the Minneapolis alt weekly newspaper City Pages. The paper subsequently received additional photos and information about the gathering.
According to the Star Tribune, a staff member at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit, the restaurant that hosted the event, lost his job last week after admitting to taking photos and sharing them with friends.
Gasthof’s owner Mario Pierzchalski doesn't understand the uproar. An immigrant of Poland, Pierzchalski said the participants were merely "actors" and "peaceful people." Even so, Pierzchalski said that after six years of hosting the party, the event will no longer be held at his establishment.
“So now we have a lot of bad messages on our phones; they want to burn down the building,” he told the Star Tribune. “We live in a free country...but from the comments I see, a lot of people they don’t see what freedom is. If I break the law, punish me. But we did this for so many years and everything was fine.”
Pierzchalski has not responded to TPM's request for comment. When TPM called Gasthof’s, the woman on the other end seemed accustomed to handling inquiries about the controversy.
"Is this about the article?" she asked.
The organizers of the event have also insisted that they were not making a political statement.
Scott Steben, the organizer of the party, told the Star Tribune this week that "[b]y no means do we glorify the edicts of the Third Reich." According to the newspaper, Steben has had roles as a German soldier in "at least three movies."
Jon Boorom, who also participated in the event, compared the party in an interview with City Pages to "a Star Trek convention but for WWII enthusiasts."
On Wednesday, Steben issued an apology and said he understood "that some of the items we displayed at the dinner have made people feel uncomfortable."
(Photo above courtesy of City Pages.)