WARSAW, POLANDIn the largest nostalgia-driven military assault in history, 250,000 retro-crazed German teenagers and twentysomethings invaded Poland Monday.
"The '30s were, like, the coolest decade," said 17-year-old Grete Wunsch of Dusseldorf, one of the 840 young hipsters in the 55th Panzer Division who seized control of the capital city of Warsaw and set up a provisional German government. "The clothes, the music, the ralliesthat whole Third Reich thing was just the best. I was so born in the wrong decade."
"Lebensraum is totally where it's at," said Günter Groff, 19, a high-ranking officer in the popular teen retro-club which calls itself "The S.S." "We're tired of the mainstream, corporate clothes and pop music of the '90s. We hunger for something more, something to call our own, and we understand that the Fatherland must gain more territory if the superior Aryan Race is to claim its rightful destiny as rulers of the Untermensch."
Throughout Poland, the air is filled with the exuberant sounds of traditional Bavarian "oom-pah" bands, the synchronized stomp of marching jackboots, and rousing songs of patriotic fervor, as German retro-fever takes the nation by force. The trendy German youths are getting Polish citizens into the act, too, issuing them passes, demanding to see papers, and strictly enforcing curfews on pain of execution by firing squad.
Despite the protests of the conquered Poles, who insist that the German retro craze is "played out," the trend shows no sign of waning any time soon. In fact, it seems to be gaining momentum, poised to sweep across all of Europe.
"The '90s are so boring. There are never any world wars anymore. That's why this retro thing is so awesome–it's finally our chance to do some of that cool stuff we missed," said Birgid Schumacher, 16, of Berlin. "I am so psyched to annex Czechoslovakia."
"Things go in cycles, ja?" said 17-year-old Otto Meine of Stuttgart, a German Youth Brigade junior officer stationed in Gdansk. "Last year, the big thing with all the kids at school was The Spice Girls, but this year it's the violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Next year, who knows? It could be the construction of massive, industrial deathcamps and the wholesale conversion of the native Jewry into soap. There's just so much great old stuff to bring back."
Meine's exuberant attitude seems to be contagious. Across Germany, young people are jumping on the retro bandwagon, wearing vintage brownshirt uniforms and attending massive "old-school" military rallies that draw hundreds of thousands to city squares.
The biggest event of the retro movement, observers say, will likely come this summer, when two million youths are expected to flock to the French border for a star-studded, three-day festival. Tentatively titled "The Claiming Of Alsace-Lorraine," the festival will feature rock bands, extreme-sports competitions, and the brutal occupation of the long-disputed French border region by Germany. Organizers are so confident the festival will be a success, plans are already underway for a follow-up event for next summer: London Blitzkrieg '99.
Despite the sudden and extreme nature of the current wave of retro fever, its young devotees insist that their love of the '30s and '40s isn't just a pose. It is, they say, a way of life.
"It's about finding real meaning, real truth, in your heritage, your nation and your race," said Berliner Klaus Hofbreit, 18. "This isn't just about the clothes I put on, or the music I listen to while marching across neighboring countries' borders. It's about finding strength in who you are and triumphing through sheer will. It's about my kultur, know what I'm saying? The totenkultur."
Added Hofbreit: "Deutschland über alles, baby!"