A band of historical military enthusiasts dressing up as the personal Nazi bodyguards of Adolf Hitler have been branded ignorant and offensive by the RSA.

The Weekend Herald has obtained photographs of members of the Military Re-enactment Society holding a private dinner at a Cambridge restaurant last month.

The images show some dressed in full SS uniform with swastika armbands, Nazi banners hanging on the wall and a framed photo of Adolf Hitler on a laurel-laden mantelpiece.

According to the club's website, the group portrayed army units from different countries. They included the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, an elite division of the Waffen SS which protected Hitler.

Dressing as German soldiers to act in WWII battles is common in military re-enactment circles, but most groups do not wear Nazi regalia.

The Nazi images were described as ill-advised, offensive and ignorant by RSA national president Robin Klitscher.

He did not believe the military club members were fascists, but said they "clearly do not understand what they've done".

"The military re-enactment thing is fine. People might see the SS uniforms as fancy dress costume. But at the time [World War II], it was much more than fancy dress costume," said Mr Klitscher.

"That's the point that these people are missing. And it's unacceptable."

Mr Klitscher compared the images with an earlier incident in which Auckland Grammar School students were photographed saluting and bowing to Nazi symbols during a trip to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The boys later apologised.

"This is in the same category," said Mr Klitscher. "Clearly this group hasn't understood the symbolism."

The photos were taken at a private dinner during the Armistice in Cambridge commemoration weekend last month.

Steve Goodman, of the Military Re-enactment Society, said the photos of Nazi images had been taken out of context. He said different army units - including American troops - were represented at the dinner which had been themed as 1940s Germany.

Mr Goodman said he was taking legal action against the person who had been spreading highly defamatory information about the society.

The chairman of the Jewish Council of New Zealand, also called Stephen Goodman, said the photos did not show anything "insidious".

"It's more anything that honours the Nazi regime that causes us concern. It's a bit hard to see where to draw that line."

But Mr Goodman said the framed photograph of Hitler on the mantlepiece was disturbing.

Rob Feisst, the organiser of Armistice in Cambridge commemorations, said the dinner was outside of the official programme and was not held on the grounds.

He had discussed the images with the RSA and believed the group were not neo-Nazis. "It's fair to say, though, that the way they dress is totally inappropriate. Very poor taste."

The WW2 Historical Re-enactment Society also takes part in the reconstructions of war battles at shows around New Zealand.

On its website, it distinguishes between German soldiers and Nazi political ideology.

"This society does not support the re-enactment of military groups that have a history of ethnic cleansing or war crimes against humanity."

Secretary Cliff Tuckey said they dressed as German soldiers, but every effort was made to downplay the symbol. "We never want to upset anyone if possible," he said. "We don't fly swastika flags, we don't wear any insignia that can be seen at a distance."