Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

I just found this site today and when I read the site's name I couldn't help but cringe, "Nazi Dieselpunk"  My initial concern was that it was a neo-Nazi site that had tried to hook onto Dieselpunk. After spending some time there I concluded that instead it's a site that's primarily interested in some of the the bizarre tech that the Germans developed during the war as well as the alternative history stories of World War II.

However, it sparked a question that I have and which I would like feedback on from members of the forum. Because World War II played such a major role in the Diesel Era does that open us up to at risk overlooking the evil of Nazism? For example, what should we make of some of the art that shows fantasy German military? What about pin-up art consisting of women dressed in Nazi uniforms? And concerning German uniforms, should Dieselpunks wear WWII era German uniforms for conventions such as cosplay? If so, is there a line where it becomes inappropriate? For example, is it okay to wear a German army uniform but not an SS?

I would love to read the thoughts of the members of the forum.

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For me the most important lesson of WWII is that people will work together to face a common threat. Like any narrative, the story requires a villain. I don't mind if people dress up as baddies. I would object if people started trying to justify Nazi policy.

This is a good question so I'm just going to reply off the top of my head. A german army uniform on its own isn't a "bad" thing. There could be dozens of reasons for it. If one is a citizen and required to wear said uniform. Or maybe they are a spy, or have gone AWOL - ok those last 2 would be a reason for them wearing the SS symbol.

As for wearing them for cosplay and such. I have seen some that were very well done - I always hope people know the history of what they are wearing and not just because it looks cool, but art is static and as long as the person is brave enough and able enough to wear the uniform they should be prepared to defend the reasoning behind it. (If anyone even says anything to them that is)

I mean its almost like if somene wears a KKK outfit, what will the response be? Or even will people recognize it for what it is. How about those that dress as crime bosses? In theory they are glorifying the bad guy, ok maybe not glorifying but its the only word I can think of right now.

 The good thing being if we don't question, we won't know. I think since Dieselpunk is establishing itself in my mind, and there are a lot of questions I have, I got over excited.

There are people who reenact World War II. Like the Civil War reenactors they don't necessarily worry about what their uniform used to stand for. They are just soldiers of a country that was at war.

I do not feel that wearing a German uniform puts that person as a neo-Nazi. A lot of innocent or naïve or patriotic people wore German uniform during World War II. Wearing a German uniform does not make you anything but in the German army. This would also be the case for the SS uniforms. It's what you do in the uniform that matters. This is one of my big pet peeves just because your German does not make you a Nazi.Wearing the uniform does not make you a Nazis.   The same could be said for wearing Soviet union uniforms also. Stalin did kill and torture several million people also.   And depending on your political beliefs even the Imperial British Empire committed atrocities (for some anti-British people anyway) so are the Steampunk people supposed to give up their Victorian era clothing because of all the bad things the British did? The uniforms are part of the history that is part of the culture of the era.

I would draw the line at wearing the swastika armbands or anything with the swastika on it. That is the most identifiable  symbol I think in the world and it symbolizes a very dark evil in human nature.

Truthfully I like the look of most of the uniforms. They are very good looking.

I must admit I've had concerns about this in ways that go beyond Dieselpunk.  Nazis have become such an almost generic cartoon villain anymore that I'm concerned that people might forget just exactly WHY they were so villainous, and that since Evil is Sexy that future generations may give those horrendous murderers the same makeover that pop culture has given pirates.  Yet on the other end, the constant exposure to holocaust imagery has been noted to have the effect of desensitizing people to the horrors such that they greet modern examples of genocide with a "well, there goes humanity again" shrug. Either extreme is dangerous.  I think as Dieselpunks we should remember exactly why the Nazis were and are rightfully regarded as villainous, and how their own people came to suffer as much as the rest of the world when they pulled the world into Hitler's insane Gotterdammerung fantasy.  I personally wouldn't cosplay in an SS uniform any more than I'd cosplay in a KKK hood (though I'd don such costumes in a fictional or historical play or movie, so long as I was playing the villain and obviously in the wrong), but like the Toy Soldiers attest, using quasi-Fascist imagery in an ironic subversion of fascism is pretty damned Dieselpunk to me.  It's of course up to us to make sure the world understands that irony and knows that DP isn't Neonazi and that true Neonazis are the antithesis of Dieselpunk.


This is a great question that you bring up.  First, I think that any website on the internet opens itself up to all kinds of evils; that’s just the risk one takes when in public forum. Second, and more specifically, I honestly feel that the overwhelming majority are sensitive to this issue and conduct themselves in a decent and ethical manner. Of course, it’s possible to overlook this issue or possibly become desensitized to it but I think that most people are conscious of not wanting to overstep that boundary of what would be considered appropriate.

I feel that photographs of soldiers or other military scenes, when presented in the proper historical context, are perfectly acceptable. If simply using these images in portraying history for posterity’s sake, or admiring them for their beauty or something of interest, this is fine. I think that making jokes or using these images in an arbitrary manner is extremely distasteful and rude, however. 

Personally, I feel that in Cosplay or current art, German or other Axis uniforms or military equipment are perfectly acceptable with the one stipulation that the swastika be left out. I’m even a fan of the HellboyKroenen” character or other imagery that can be understood to appear as Gestapo-type, S.S., or Fascist-style “bad guys”.  However, I feel that to continue the use of the swastika is to perpetuate the atrocities that occurred.  I don’t know how others feel about this issue or specifically, my views. I have family members who were imprisoned by German occupiers during the war and I also have family who are proud to have grown up in beautiful Bavaria, headquarters of the National Socialist party, so I’m sure that this has biased my opinion to some degree.

-Just my view.          

my two cents:  The "evil is sexy" trope is strong and I do find it appealing as a woman; I think it trips that "evil is often strong and knows what it wants" which might be simple lizard brain triggers. I can remember seeing "Patterns of Force" (the ST: TOS episode with the nazis) and going "mmmm-hmmm, vulcans in SS uniforms are damned attractive" It's a pity that the Nazis got what appeal to me as the most attractive uniforms.  I'm guessing that a cultural interest in good tailoring might have something to do with why they look so good.  For me, as has been mentioned, the nazi flag/armband isn't appropriate for most things.  And the SS, well, I can't see them being "innocent" at all.  I see no reason to think that they could be the classic anti-hero  or "dark" hero that is so popular anymore.

I've dabbled in various levels of historical costuming, and all time periods have the "bad guys" that people either intentionally reproduce or simply don't know enough about and do it anyway.  Again, as has been said, in proper context, playing the bad guy is okay, but I find that context relatively rare.


The issue with the uniforms goes for a lot of groups. I doubt the countries who were "liberated" by the Soviets would look kindly on someone walking around in a 1940s Red Army uniform.

As for Nazism itself, I'd imagine we can see the different greyscales instead of the simple black and white picture many people have of that era.

I have always thought it a bit odd, as well as rather hypocritical, that such attention is focused purely on the Nazis. Anyone who studies history should be well aware of the atrocities perpetuated by a number of nations and sects within this same time frame. As well as others. Yet the world seems to have no trouble in conveniently turning a very blind eye to all of it and prefers to single out this one group for their "Righteous Wrath". IMO, its hypocritical foolishness. 

Personally, I think that I would worry more about the state of mind of a person upset over somebody else wearing a swastika plotting to raise a "Fourth Reich" than the person playing dress-up and actually in the armband. 

I think the big difference in perceptions may stem in large part from the photo-documented evidence of Nazi attrocities v. those of Stalin or Mao, which AFAIK are known mostly through personnal accounts.  It's hard to look at the images from Auschwitz or Treblinka and not be utterly horrified and forever associate them with men in black uniforms and swastikas.  Sure, I know from my history books that Stalin killed upwards of 12 million or more and that Mao's horrifying combination of abuse and neglect killed an unfathomable 20-40 million, but I don't have rheems and rheems of photographs of starved Chinese peasants stacked like cord-wood, or Cossack-skin lampshades to view at a museum to subconciously or conciously associate with a 1941 Kommisar's uniform.  And add to that the perverseness of how "scientifically" and industrially executed the Holocaust was and you add an angle that somehow goes beyond old fashioned barbarian cruelty and into something inhumanly cold and reptilian.  Fair or not vis-a-vis the IMO just as evil Stalinism/Maoism/etc., Naziism has become the poster boy for evil human rights violation and it is impossible for most to seperate the attrocities from the pagentry.

So just as I personally am not the least bit offended by the Confederate flag, yet have enough friends and acquaintances that cannot seperate the image of the flag from the civil rights abuses committed under it in the Civil Rights era that I personally will not fly it or display it in a non-historical setting, I'm not going to be the one to dress as a Sturmbahnfuhrer for Gencon.


as someone who wears either an A2 flight jacket or BF-109 Jagdflieger(neither with any badges or markings), depending on the weather, i couldn't really be said to be supporting either side... to me, it's a fashion thing, i have a red Army bag, that i sometimes use to carry stuff in(again, im oblivious to the political context, because it's a functional item, and i don't involve myself with politics), so i'm hardly likely to invoke Godwin's Law.

i have in the past been criticised by people who don't wear vintage clothing of any kind, for owning a pair of Luftwaffe gloves(for sale in any army/navy shop, and incredibly hardwearing and comfortable - with a great moleskin lining), and despite my attempts to explain that these are modern gloves, from the contemporary German air force, and nothing to do with what happened many years ago - some misguided people still associate the modern Germany with the events of yester-year.

Kollin enlightened me to a fantastic solution...

Slap this on there and then you're a visual pun as well as a fantastic cosplay, but under no circumstances are you representing Nazism.

ROFL!  That's awesome, J-me! 

Now you just need writing-related acoutrements to replace the other insignia.  Say two fountain pens or a check and an X in place of the SS runes, a contemptuous looking owl face to replace the Totenkopf, and Black-bordered open book to replace the Ritterkreutz.

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