Nazi War Diggers

I am very bad at posting here, I get sucked into posting for two other blogs that I am managing at the moment Traces of the Past and IIRG, and all the social media for work. However, in the last few days I have been really concerned by the National Geographic Channel’s new output ‘Nazi War Diggers’ and I want to post my email to them here in case anyone comes across it. It’s not a great email, but a concern is a concern and must be voiced however ineloquently.

If you have not heard about it, you should start here.

“To whom it may concern,

I’m writing to express my and many other archaeologists’ concerns about the ‘Nazi War Diggers’ programme due to be broadcast in the UK in May 2014.  I watched the Human Bones Removal clip a few days ago and was astounded that such an event was a) recorded and b) thought worthy of broadcast.

I hold a Masters in Human Osteoarchaeology (removed as it refers to my place of work).  I daren’t imagine what other horrors your programme has in store.  I know that many other archaeologists will write to you so I’m not going to labour the points that will be made more eloquently by others:

  •  Those four men had neither the education nor the experience to dig out human remains (they were not excavated)
  • They could not even identify a femur, they drew conclusions as to that individual’s cause of death based simply on what ever came first into their heads
  • Those remains are of an individual, who may have died in the course of war. Neither that person nor their family was afforded a modicum of respect, either in the manner in which they were pulled out from the ground or the way in which it was filmed. You can promise and publish all the Q& A’s you want, but you cannot undo that footage.
  • Your actions are surely in contravention of Article 3. Go look it up. I have contacted the EU Contact Centre on this.
  • If you actually had had an archaeologist on staff as one of your “diggers” claims, they would not have allowed you to do this, unless of course they were drunk on the Fox Network Kool-Aid.
  • Metal-detecting is allowed in the UK, but is illegal in my country without licence because when accompanied by digging, such as shown on your programme, it is entirely destructive and renders the object or human remains recovered worthless in terms of information. How many individuals did you unearth who did not have dog-tags? If they have been forensically excavated, there would have stood a chance of reuniting their remains with their families, you robbed them of this.
  • As a network, you have a responsiblity to encourage ethical actions. All you have done with this is tell night-hawks and looters that what they do is okay. It is not. Grave-robbing in 2014 is not acceptable, because we know better. There is no excuse. Even some metal-detectorists are alarmed by this programme.

I sincerely hope you will bend to mounting pressure and cancel broadcasting of this programme. I doubt it of course, with all the free advance publicity, it would take real strength to do so. As a former National Geographic magazine subscriber, I am saddened by how the channel has let the foundation down so badly. I read somewhere that your ratings are at an all time high. But at what price?
Yours sincerely,

Philippa Barry”