Monday, 31 March 2014

"Nazi War Digger" Craig Gotlieb in Poland Again?

Sam Hardy has drawn attention to the dealings of National Geographic's "Nazi War Digger"  Craig Gotlieb in ground-dug, and other, Nazi items ('Who would sell a ‘ground dug’ German helmet or a ‘ground found digged out’ ring?', Sam Hardy March 30, 2014). One of them caught my eye, a "Westwall" ring which he wrote about as recently as 18th February this year on a forum,  ( where he gives his location as "Alte Babitz,  Poland":
 ‘Come on this one is ground found digged out durring the exploration of the battelfiield near Stettin . This I was told by the owner. I have few more WESTWALL rings from this guy wchich are OK. I just do not know this pattern therefore I ask You for help.’
From the point of view of somebody writing from Poland, there is something incredibly aggressively revisionist in referring to a place which for coming up to seventy years (since 1945, as a result of the German defeat) has been called by the Slavic name Szczecin. The same applies to Alte Babitz, but where was he says he was when he wrote this? He says in Poland, but Babitz ist der Name folgender Orte in Polen:
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Nędza, Powiat Raciborski, Polen
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Baborów, Powiat Głubczycki, Polen
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Oświęcim, Powiat Oświęcimski, Polen - the latter a site of a subcamp of the Oświęciem-Brzezinka camp.

None of these, as far as I can see were "Alte" Babitz, but there is a place just to the west of Warsaw, Stare Babice (which is a plural) which on German maps would appear as "Alte Babitz". Has Craig Gotlieb really been staying just outside Warsaw in the past few weeks, and what has he been doing here? (notable are several WW2 battlefields precisely in this region). Is he meeting metal detectorist colleagues contacted here during the filming of the National Geographic programme a year ago? Why is he using exclusively old German names in correspondence for places in Poland? Does he think that is in some way funny or clever? Whatever his reasons it shows complete disregard for the Poles. More to the point if Mr Gotlieb has been staying here buying dugup relics from artefact hunters in Szczecin or wherever, has he been sending or taking them out of the country and to whom has he been selling them and for what purpose? The latter is not insignificant under Polish law (Ustawa z dnia 6 czerwca 1997 r. – Kodeks karny art. 256 Dz. U. Nr 88, poz. 553,with all later amendments).
Art. 256. Propagowanie faszyzmu lub totalitaryzmu
§ 1. Kto publicznie propaguje faszystowski lub inny totalitarny ustrój państwa lub nawołuje do nienawiści na tle różnic narodowościowych, etnicznych, rasowych, wyznaniowych albo ze względu na bezwyznaniowość, podlega grzywnie, karze ograniczenia wolności albo pozbawienia wolności do lat 2.
§ 2. Tej samej karze podlega, kto w celu rozpowszechniania produkuje, utrwala lub sprowadza, nabywa, przechowuje, posiada, prezentuje, przewozi lub przesyła druk, nagranie lub inny przedmiot, zawierające treść określoną w § 1 albo będące nośnikiem symboliki faszystowskiej, komunistycznej lub innej totalitarnej.
§ 3. Nie popełnia przestępstwa sprawca czynu zabronionego określonego w § 2, jeżeli dopuścił się tego czynu w ramach działalności artystycznej, edukacyjnej, kolekcjonerskiej lub naukowej.
§ 4. W razie skazania za przestępstwo określone w § 2 sąd orzeka przepadek przedmiotów, o których mowa w § 2, chociażby nie stanowiły własności sprawcy.
Note, the act does not mention in paragraph 3 commercial use. According to the wording of the law, collectors (finders) don't go to jail, but dealers can. Anyone with weapons, even ground dug is also likely to lose them under other laws on possession of weapons. Actually, the anti-symbols law is rarely enforced, sometimes the police raid antiques markets in Poland and any Nazi relics (mostly actually reproductions) have their swastikas covered with masking tape for a few weeks afterwards.There is also some debate whether WW2 battlefields come under the antiquities preservation laws, which define the term "archaeological site" (what is protected) rather vaguely - though again human remains in them are covered by other legislation. Polish metal detectorists who restrict their exploration to sites of the 1930s onwards are not likely to get into trouble for it here. Most of them however are very responsible (I know a few of them) and their hobby magazines show many of them research the sites using the historical documents in a way that would put the average UK metal detector hoiker to shame (they use the term to use old documents and archaeological literature to find places to target for collectables only). Much of what Polish artefact hunters who I have observed do can merit the title military archaeology - that is not to say there are not also destructive and totally reprehensible (as well as stupidly reckless) cowboys.   A number of the latter each year though end their careers splattered in the forests.

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