Saturday, 29 March 2014

"Nazi War Diggers", the Polish Background


National Geographic has defiantly gone into damage control mode over its "Nazi War Diggers" programmes. They admit:
Unfortunately, a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team’s methodology.
Oh, I think it probably did. They want to stress that the series "operates in direct conjunction with organizations officially licensed to excavate battlefield sites and adhered to their procedures". Not in the video we saw they were not, not by a long chalk. So what is it we saw on that film? The film company decries the "misinformation being circulated". The information which is being circulated is based on what National Geographic themselves posted in the public domain to publicise the series and get people talking about it. That they are. NatGeo then go on to insist:
All relics uncovered by the team were cataloged and photographed and are now in safe storage. Items have been offered to museums. No items were trafficked or sold. The human remains found in the series will be reburied with due ceremony in military cemeteries under the supervision of the relevant war graves commissions.
It seems some artefacts however were brought back by team members from digging in Latvia. Some of these may be in"safe storage", but reports suggest that some were "plated and turned into candlesticks". What relationship do they have to the statements now being made by the TV company? How do the team know which war cemetery to bury these remains in? We saw some human bones hoiked from a small hoik hole dug in the middle of a battlefield from 1945, how were they identified as the remains of German soldier and not a Soviet one?

Some of this work was done in Poland. A photograph was made available by Donna Yates last night on Twitter. Here it is:

The caption said "Digging a German soldier in Poland for Pros dug, "stars" put in shot after. thnx ".

The photo raises questions. First of all Dr Yates does not mention that in itself, it is fake, somebody is shown "digging" with no handshovel or bucket to gather the loose. This surely is not a battlefield body. This looks like two skeletons from a mass grave - perhaps others lie at a lower level? There is an homogeneous sandy fill above the skeletons and the edge of the pit in which they lie seems to be indicated by the line on the right side of the pit floor, and the darker soil behind the crouching figure and in the right baulk. This excavation has therefore been made in the middle of one of the sides. Was the hole dug specifically to reveal bodies for the filming of Nazi War Diggers? Are the bodies Germans or Poles or somebody else?

We may then turn to the National Geographic damage control text, apparently written hurriedly to address the concerns expressed in the past few days. Look at what it says;
(Translated) Statement from Tomasz Czabanski, President of Pomost archaeological association in Poland
Before we go any further note how somebody sneakily slipped that word "archaeological" into the title of the organization. In reality the organization has no such word in its official name, is not an archaeological organization, though it does publish historical books (and there is one archaeologist in the association). The text goes on:
“Pomost Association is an organization dedicated to Polish-German reconciliation. We work on behalf of German People’s Union for Care of War Graves from Kassel (VDK). The work we do is on their behalf and for their benefit. These jobs are carried out under existing permits in Poland from the Polish official authorities. These jobs are carried out by the members of our association including archaeologists and historians. The episode for National Geographic relating to work in Poland was filmed with our consent, in accordance with the permit issued by the Volksbund (VDK) press department from Kassel. The works were carried out under our constant supervision and according to Polish procedures."
Note the vagueness about the "existing permits" and "Polish procedures". To conduct archaeological work or searching for artefacts in the Republic of Poland, a permit is issued to a named individual to do a certain project, and conditions are laid down in that permit which is issued as an administrative decision on application. I'd like to see the permits issues for the metal detectorist "Nazi War Diggers" to go anywhere near this work. They cannot be issued a permit in Polish law, due to their lack of archaeological training (that is the problem for metal detectorists here). Certainly no German VDK has any administrative powers to issue any permit for work carried out in the Republic of Poland. I really think we all deserve to hear in more detail, just what it is that "Pomost" did, and what the actual involvement of the three UK metal detectorists and the US relics dealer were in this.

This, taking into account the features shown in the background and general setting looks a bit like the exhumation by Pomost at Podła Góra (formerly Steinbach), near Świebodzin. Here German villagers (not necessarily all "Nazis") were massacred by a group of soldiers of the Red Army. But that exhumation, surely, took place four years ago, so I do not think it can be, but then, if its a later project, for some reason (unless I have missed something), it seems not to figure on the "Pomost" website. Why? Why again the secrecy? What actually is shown in this photo, and what took place in Poland for the needs of making "Nazi War Diggers"?

And whatever this site in Poland is, in what way are the US producers justified in alleging that it is in danger of being "looted" which gives rise to "Nazi War diggers" having to "race against time" to save it from Polish looters?  

1 comment:

conflictantiquities said...

That explains a lot. I couldn't believe that Polish archaeologists would be involved (or any archaeologists but, between their professionalism and the history, especially them).

 
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