A member of Pomost excavating part of the mass grave of 48 civilians killed by Soviet troops in 1945 – in the village of Błotno in western Poland [Courtesy of Pomost]
Following the UK broadcast of the episode of the controversial TV series “Battlefield Recovery” [formerly known as “Nazi War Diggers”] which was recorded in Poland in November 2013, Tomasz Czabański, the head of the Polish organisation Pomost, has issued a strongly worded statement alleging that the programme makers, London based ClearStory Productions, showed Pomost’s work in a dishonest way. Pomost is an association which seeks to promote reconciliation between Poland and Germany through the recovery of missing German soldiers and civilians and its work is highly regarded by the German war graves authority, the VDK. The new statement also alleges that the organisation was ignored by ClearStory when it tried to raise concerns about the way the programme portrayed World War Two and fears it depicted their work as a cross between “…an adventure and badge collecting.”
The funeral of German soldiers recovered by Pomost at the Stare Czarnowo cemetery
[Courtesy of Pomost]
The Pomost statement also confirms that during the excavation of a mass grave in the Polish village of Sarbka, the ClearStory presentation team of Stephen Taylor, Kris Rodgers and Adrian Kostromski worked under the control of Pomost and not, as the narrative line of the programme appeared to show, on their own search for the remains of German soldiers, started by “a tip off” and supported by Pomost personnel because the ClearStory team needed “extra muscle”.
The Pomost Statement reads as follows in English and the original Polish.
“Cooperation with CS [ClearStory] was a mistake from the beginning to the end. The way they show our work in dishonest way. We’ve trusted them and they misused it.
“Współpraca Pomostu z CS była błędem – od początku do końca. Nasza praca została pokazana w nieuczciwy sposób.
We feel sorry that our work might be shown in a way suggesting that the excavation of German soldiers in Poland is something between an adventure and badges collecting.
CS nadużyło naszego zaufania – jest nam przykro, że nasza praca mogła zostać ukazana w sposób sugerujący, że prace ekshumacyjne to coś pomiędzy przygodami a zbieraniem odznaczeń.
In the other hand, people from CS worked only with us and under our control. They had permits from VDK to “cooperate” with us. They were not left alone, but in the first version of Polish episode, that CS shown us, it looked like they are just black diggers doing their job alone. We had no influence on the programme’s style.
Jednakże, ludzie pracujący dla CS pracowali tylko i wyłącznie z nami i pod naszą kontrolą. Dysponowali oni niezbędnymi pozwoleniami wydanymi przez VDK. Mimo tego, oglądając pierwszą wersję polskiego odcinka, którą pokazali nam pracownicy CS, można było odnieść wrażenie, że są oni dzikimi poszukiwaczami, “pracującymi” samowolnie. Nie mieliśmy wpływu na styl programu.
We told CS to correct it – and tried to tell them to improve many other things showing us and history of WWII in unfair way – unsuccessfully, we are afraid. We haven’t seen the last [UK] version and we have nothing in common with CS people except that unlucky one time. That was the first and the last time we cooperated with CS.”
Zwróciliśmy się do CS z prośbą o poprawę tego jak i wielu innych rzeczy, pokazujących zarówno nas jak i historię drugiej wojny światowej w nierzetelny sposób, obawiamy się jednak, że nie przyniosło to skutku. Nie widzieliśmy ostatniej wersji odcinka i nie mamy z CS niczego wspólnego z wyłączeniem tej nieszczęsnej, jednorazowej współpracy. To był pierwszy i ostatni raz, kiedy współpracowaliśmy z CS.”
thePipeLine approached ClearStory Ltd and asked the company if it had a response to today’s statement from Pomost. We also asked if ClearStory regretted anything about the way they had made and presented Battlefield Recovery, given the level of opposition to the series and the number of complaints made to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom. During the first two weeks of the broadcast run of Battlefield Recovery only Celebrity Big Brother attracted more complaints about content. Up to the time of publication ClearStory have declined to reply. However, in a press release dated 9 January 2016 ClearStory stated;
“While we’re proud of the work Battlefield Recovery undertook in Eastern Europe, we’re also very aware that our efforts are just a drop in the ocean. Thousands and thousands of bodies are still out there, left behind and lost. We’ve stayed in close touch with Pomost and Legenda and are discussing how we might make a sequel.”
Today’s statement from Pomost suggests that, as far as Pomost is concerned at least, that sequel is unlikely.
Neither does the statement shed any light on the mysterious cancellation of the programme featuring Pomost when the series was shown in Poland in the Autumn of 2015. ClearStory blamed “a local technical fault”, for the cancellation, but the programme was never re-instated. It has also been noted that the UK broadcasts are out of sequence with those shown in Poland, although it was originally announced that the series would be broadcast in the same order. This has raised suspicions that the remaining programme of the series may have been withdrawn to be reviewed and possibly re-edited, after criticism of a sequence involving the tipping out of a human skull and other controversial elements.
The final programme in the UK run of Battlefield Recovery is due to be shown on Saturday [30 January] on Channel 5.
The series is still available on Demand 5