In what may be the most grotesque Third Reich-themed “edutainment”/”infotainment” show yet, National Geographic Channels International and ClearStory have filmed Nazi War Diggers. It is not about sappers. In this programme, you can watch metal-detecting antiquities dealers perform ‘human bone removal’ – ‘hunt for relics and bodies’, the ‘remains of soldiers from both sides’. Everyone involved has urgent ethical and legal questions to answer.
According to Executive Producer Russell Barnes, the series ‘explores ethical ways to preserve our history and the dignity of the people who made it’. Apparently, they are working ‘in close collaboration with local archaeologists and licensed preservation organisations‘. I do hope the “local archaeologist” is not the officially unlisted ‘Polish metal detectorist Adrian Kostromski’…
They claim that they are ‘racing against time to save this history from being looted or lost’ from the Nazi-Soviet battlefield on the Courland Peninsula in Latvia and elsewhere on the Eastern Front. But the seemingly unironically described ‘[p]harmacist by day, chairman of the WW2 Relic Retrieval & Preservation Group (RRPG) by night and weekends’ Stephen Taylor, ‘metal detectorist’ Kris Rodgers and ‘militaria dealer’ (retired U.S. Marine Major) Craig Gottlieb do not inspire confidence.
Selling Nazi antiquities for loadsamoney
If you think Paul Barford is unduly worried, History Hunter Military Antiques dealer Gottlieb has declared on National Geographic that, ‘by selling things that are Nazi related and for lots of money, I’m preserving a part of history that museums don’t want to bother with’. Fuck you Gottlieb.
Evidence of legal and ethical conduct?
What is the difference between looters and National Geographic’s relic… rescuers? As Barford says (though he shouldn’t need to say it, because NatGeoTV is supposed to be an educational channel), National Geographic (and/or its team) urgently need to provide ‘a copy of the search[/excavation] permits‘, and to explain what is being done with the human remains (and historic artefacts) that their ‘talent’ are pulling out of their resting places.
If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging…
And they are literally pulling stuff out of the ground. The seemingly unsupervised non-professionals, who don’t know the difference between an arm and a leg, dig big holes (without control, sampling or recording), then wiggle and yank bones out one-by-one with their gloved hands (rather than scientifically exposing and documenting the skeletons in position). Fuck you all, each and every one.
They must answer these questions.