Leader of 'SS group' pictured performing Nazi salute

Leader of group which sparked fury for wearing SS uniforms at 1940s festival is pictured performing Nazi salute near Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’ mountain retreat in Bavaria

  • EXCLUSIVE: Jim Keeling, 53, pulled off the pose near Hitler’s summer house

The leader of a group which was kicked out of a WW2 festival at the weekend after dressing up as the SS has been photographed performing a Nazi salute near Hitler’s Summer retreat, the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ in Bavaria, MailOnline can reveal.

Diving instructor and father-of-four Jim Keeling, 53, has also shared anti-Semitic tropes on his Instagram account.

At the weekend, his antics at wearing the insignia of a senior officer of the Waffen SS outraged other WW2 re-enactment enthusiasts.

If our exclusive photos of Keeling giving the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute were indeed taken in Bavaria, as his now-deleted Facebook album suggested, he could be in trouble, as giving the Nazi salute in Germany is illegal and punishable with a six-month prison sentence.

In June of this year, Keeling and friends posted a series of photos on Facebook of their trip to Nuremberg and Berchtesgarten, where the ‘Fuhrer’s’ Summer retreat is now a seasonal restaurant. 

Diving instructor and father-of-four Jim Keeling, 53, imitating a Nazi salute at ‘Hitler’s mountain home The Eagles Nest’

Mr Keeling (pictured right) and a group of other men were confronted by crowds on Sheringham High Street in Norfolk when they arrived in SS gear last week

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler pictured reading his letters in the Eagles Nest in 1935

However, it is understood that he claimed he was “mimicking” the salute, rather than doing it for real.

In 2011 a 30-year-old Canadian tourist was arrested after he was photographed giving the Nazi salute outside the Reichstag, the German parliament building, in Berlin. He escaped with a fine and several hours in police custody.

Relatives of Keeling described his antics as ‘disgusting’.

‘I don’t know what’s got into his head,’ one told MailOnline. ‘His father who served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War would turn in his grave to see him dressing as a Nazi and doing their salutes.’

His father Cedric ‘Lofty’ Keeling, who died in 1996, aged 72, was a Royal Navy Commando, also known as RN Beachhead Commandos, used to establish, maintain and control beachheads during amphibious operations such as the Normandy landings.

They were disbanded at the end of the war.

Mr Keeling and his group of ten men attended Sheringham’s Second World War-themed weekend, which attracts up to 25,000 people, and allegedly clashed with locals in the Norfolk seaside town.

Keeling’s men, the 5 Wiking [Viking] SS Division re-enactment group, wear SS markings on their collars and badges featuring the infamous ‘death’s head’ symbol and swastikas. The group is also known as the Eastern Front Living History Group

Witnesses said the group congregated outside a local pub where they were confronted by locals telling them they were not welcome.

Mr Keeling (background) pictured with a friend could land himself in hot water

After the men arrived event marshals stepped in to asked them to leave

Event marshals stepped in to ask the men to leave and police also intervened to shepherd the group away from the crowd for their own safety.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident after one man reported being assaulted.

The incident prompted calls to ban Nazi uniforms from future events and the town council has agreed to discuss proposals to make the event Allied-uniform only.

Laws against giving the Nazi salute or displaying Nazi symbols in Germany and Austria were passed shortly after the end of the Second World War.

Keeling, from near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, describes himself on LinkedIn as ‘dogsbody’ at the ‘School of hard knocks’, but he has previously been a director of his own diving firm and is listed as a diving instructor in documents at Companies House.

His SS antics did not go down well with other WW2 enthusiasts, even those who dress up as members of the Wehrmacht, the ordinary German army.

‘We do this for three reasons,’ one told MailOnline, ‘Entertainment, education and commemoration.

‘Dressing up as members of the SS, who were instrumental in the Holocaust, doesn’t qualify under any of those headings. When Keeling posted his Nazi salutes on a private Facebook group for enthusiasts earlier this year, a lot of people were outraged.

‘He refused to apologise, but claimed he was “mimicking” the salute, rather than doing it for real, but I think he’s misguided in his thinking.’

A spokesman for the group who attended in Nazi-style uniforms admitted members wore Waffen-SS infantry uniforms but claimed they did not portray Germans

Guy Walters, a historian and author of nine books on the Second World War, said people who dress like Nazis ‘teach us nothing’ after the group of men in SS uniforms disrupted the festival in Norfolk

The annual Norfolk event drew up to 25,000 people across both days, many of them in period dress, with photos and videos online showing dancing in the streets and family celebrations

Another enthusiast pointed out that Keeling had shared an anti-Semitic cartoon on his Instagram earlier this year, showing a stereotypical Jewish figure wearing a yarmulkah skullcap, stuffing Africa into an EU-emblazoned funnel to squeeze it into Europe.

‘He’s got a good functional group, but holds opinions that just can’t be accepted in our society or hobby. I really hope he comes clean and apologises,’ said the re-enactor.

Another enthusiast pleaded: ‘Please don’t tar all Axis living history groups with the same brush as these people. There are some great groups portraying the average German soldier who do so with a really valid educational aspect.’

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust, told the Jewish Chronicle: ‘It is shocking and offensive to see in 2023 people dressed as Nazis and members of the SS – the very people responsible for the horrific ill-treatment and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Holocaust.

‘These people should not be glorified – and it sounds like the majority in attendance agree.’

But the men defended wearing the uniforms and said the confrontation was an isolated incident.

READ MORE: Historian blasts men dressed as Nazi SS as ‘flabby ‘Allo ‘Allo wannabes’ who have no historical value after furious locals clash with Swastika-clad group at popular 1940s festival

A spokesman for the Eastern Front Living History Group said: ‘We represent the western European nations that fought against Stalin and communism during World War II.

‘We were wearing Waffen SS infantry uniforms displaying national shields and insignia of the countries portrayed. Not one member of the group portrayed a German.

‘The uniforms were supplied by Germany, as were the weapons, to the foreign volunteers from 1941 to 1945. They’re as close to authentic as you can get.

‘As a group we’ve been attending the Sheringham 1940s weekend for four or five years running and never had any problems before.’

They added: ‘We were walking down Sheringham high street and people were stopping us, shaking our hands and wanting to take photos. It was a brilliant vibe. There was no one upset or offended at all. It was good-natured fun, as it should be.

‘As a group we do not tolerate any politics or any form of religious persecution. We simply won’t have it. That behaviour disgusts us and tarnishes what we do. We were not asked to leave. We were leaving anyway to go back to our campsite. We felt it was the right thing to do.’

A statement from the Sheringham Carnival Committee read: ‘Our volunteer Marshals immediately took action with the help of the Police and our volunteers escorted the group out of the Town.

‘We are working collaboratively with Sheringham Town Council, the Police and NNR to reflect on what happened and prevent any future disruption to this event.’

Sheringham Town Council said: ‘Sheringham Town Council has been made aware that on Saturday there was an incident in the town that was managed by the police.

‘Sheringham Town Council will consult with the police, North Norfolk Railway and others to determine what happened and what action may be taken to prevent a recurrence.’

A spokesperson for Norfolk Police, said: ‘A police officer on patrol in Sheringham came across a confrontation in the High Street on Saturday (16 September) at about 5.30pm, involving a man and a group of people who had been attending an event.

‘The officer intervened and quickly resolved the incident. One man reported being assaulted and this is being investigated further. No one was injured during the incident.’

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