Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Ukrainian Soldiers Wearing WWII German Helmets

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Ukrainian Soldiers Wearing WWII German Helmets Belgium

Does a viral video portray Ukrainian soldiers in 2023 wearing "WW2 era German helmets"? No, that's not true: The footage shows a traditional reenactment event in Belgium. Nothing in the video links the men wearing historic uniforms to Ukraine.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published on Instagram on December 27, 2023. It opened:

Ukrainian soldiers on the move rocking WW2 era German helmets. 😂

🇺🇦@Waraholics2.0 <-
#ukraine #Russia #military #armedforces #militaryhistory #soldiers #veterans #reenactment #Germany #ww2

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 3.34.38 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 20:34:38 2024 UTC)

The shared video showed several men in winter military uniforms riding what appeared to be an open-top military vehicle. Some of them were armed.

On the same day, this video was published by other accounts on YouTube under different captions. One of them (archived here) alleged that it showed "Germany Military Training"; another (archived here) compared the armed men to Russian soldiers entering Ukraine in 2022 without anyone showing up to express greetings.

Contrary to the claim that is the focus of this fact check, the footage lacked any identification marks such as armbands or Ukrainian national symbols linking the soldiers to contemporary Ukraine. No explicit Nazi symbols were seen in the video, either.

Two details, however, suggested that the clip showed reenactment.

One was a shoulder strap with a green edging, which was consistent (archived here) with the use of color for distinguishing between different branches of service in the German army during WWII:

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 4.03.58 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 21:03:58 2024 UTC)

Another detail pointing toward reenactment was a weapon whose shape appeared to match the German MP40 submachine gun that was also in use during WWII:

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 4.11.15 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 21:11.15 2024 UTC)

Yet, this scene did not take place in Ukraine, Russia, or Germany.

One building the soldiers passed contained a banner that read, "PM Chauffage":

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 2.30.43 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 19:30:43 2024 UTC)

A search for the location of this business led to the European Union. Based on Google Maps, one of them was in the municipality of Rendeux in Belgium's region of Wallonia (archived here).

At the end of that road, a landscape (archived here) matching what was seen in the video on Instagram appeared:

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 4.48.56 PM.png

(Sources: Google Maps screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 21:40:37 2024 UTC; Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 21:39:35 2024 UTC)

We see the same one-lane road passing the same two buildings situated just before a mountain. Furthermore, the appearance of the transmission pole and the bushy hill on the left as well as the location of the tree in the background, as seen on Google Maps, match the footage in question precisely.

The website of Wallonia (archived here) explains that every year the region commemorates several important historic events that took place there, and that includes traditional reenactments:

Screen Shot 2024-01-02 at 5.04.12 PM.png

(Source: Visitwallonia.com screenshot taken on Tue Jan 2 22:04:12 2024 UTC)

A typical program (archived here) includes reenactments related to the WWII Battle of the Bulge (archive here), also known as the Ardennes Offensive, that took place in December 1944, and January 1945. It was an unsuccessful German counterattack against the Allies (including American troops) in an attempt to reverse the course of the war.

Such reenactment scenes appear in other videos previously uploaded on YouTube (for example, here, here and here), and they include people in WWII German uniforms.

The driving time between 65 Rue des Martyrs, where one can see the landscape, and the town of Manhay, where some of the major reenactments take place, is roughly 25 minutes (archived here.)

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the war between Russia and Ukraine can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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