The story of the channel’s humiliating climb down broke late last night [31 March] when New York Times reporter Tom Mashberg carried the news on the paper’s arts blog. Quoting a National Geographic Channel statement Mashberg reported “The channel said that after “consulting with colleagues” at the National Geographic Society, it would not broadcast the series, “Nazi War Diggers,” in May as scheduled “while questions raised in recent days regarding accusations about the program can be properly reviewed.”
The series, which was made by the London based production company ClearStory, was initially defended by the National Geographic Channel who claimed that “…a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team’s methodology”. The Channel further claimed in a press statement that the series was fully compliant with local legal and licensing regimes and that;
“during filming, our production crew remained in close contact with local museums, including the Latvian War Museum.”
However, during the course of Monday [31 March 2014] blogger Sam Hardy confirmed that the Museum, which is based in the Latvian capital of Riga, had in fact disowned the series stating;
“Latvian War museum are not approving such activities. We tried to stop Diggers activities [by] drawing state institutions['] attention, but unsuccessfully. Problem about Diggers are much complicated and should be solved [at] state (law) level. We as a museum cannot do that. Only what we can do is [appeal] to these people['s] conscience.
It also emerged that the German War Graves Commission, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge or VDK, also had serious reservations about the presentation of the program. It was these facts, which were contrary to the impressions given in National Geographic’s defence of the series, which probably made the channel’s position untenable, forcing the postponement which is likely to turn into cancellation.
Any attempt to locate the series on the National Geographic Channel website now results in an “Error 404 Page not Found” code, suggesting the promotional material, which had already been heavily rewritten, has now been pulled completely and “Nazi War Diggers” has been made subject of the media equivalent of the notorious “night and fog” decree. The postponement of the series is a major success for the campaign mounted by hundreds of archaeologists and military historians all over the world.
A campaign which has been largely conducted through on line blogs and news outlets and the Social Media. It is also a humiliation for the National Geographic Channel and ClearStory. Particularly as the Channel has recently come under repeated criticism over a perceived “dumbing down” of its content.
However, aside from the cost of the postponement, what will be giving Channel Executives further sleepless nights is the strong possibility that more and worse publicity will follow as the full story of the disaster that has been “Nazi War Diggers” emerges. The full text of the National Geographic Channel’s statement is as follows,
National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days regarding allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked.
National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.
Header Image : Craig Gottlieb holding a WW2 skull on Nazi War Diggers. Published in the public domain on his facebook profile.
Read our previous article on Nazi War Diggers : Click Here