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Battlefield 5 makers to change character’s name in light of Nazi/German kerfuffle

Spooky, ice-cold villain had the name of actual German resistance hero

“Wilhelm Franke” firing a luger pistol inside a demolished cathedral during a promotional video for Battlefield 5
“Wilhelm Franke” as depicted in Battlefield 5. The character’s name is being changed.
EA Dice/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The makers of Battlefield 5 will change the name of a German faction character offered for sale in the game’s multiplayer, after it was pointed out the name belongs to a real-life German who was part of the country’s anti-Nazi resistance.

The statement Electronic Arts gave, however, sheds curious light on how the publisher and developers view the two sides fighting it out in the World War II shooter. The character in question “is not a Nazi, but a German soldier similar to ones we already have in the game.”

In other words, those fighting Allied forces in Battlefield 5 aren’t Nazis, just Germans. And it probably makes a minor kerfuffle even worse, as it comports, if unintentionally, with the “Clean Wehrmacht” line of revisionism that holds Germany’s military was separate from the ruling Nazi party and not responsible for its atrocities.

The controversy began earlier this morning with a story in Vice that noted “Wilhelm Franke,” a masked, menacing Germany adversary who went on sale for $9.99 last week, was the name of a real Dresden resistance fighter who died in the Allied firebombing of that city. The Wilhelm Franke of Battlefield 5 is, if not literally a Nazi, at least reflective of their villainous presentation over the past 75 years of pop culture: disfigured, ruthless, supernaturally immune on a battlefield, and indifferent to life or death.

In a statement to Vice after this morning’s story, an Electronic Arts spokesperson apologized for the company “as we certainly didn’t mean any disrespect to [Franke].” They went on to say to Vice:

The aforementioned Elite, Wilhelm Franke, whose name we’re changing is not a Nazi, but a German solider similar to ones we already have in the game. In Battlefield V, we’re not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game.

EA is correct that Battlefield 5 strives to present the Germans without Nazi imagery, and as anodyne as possible. Its single-player campaign in particular struggles against that delicate portrayal, with one chapter devoted to a Wehrmacht tank commander defending Berlin with a team of last-minute conscripts.

That said, we called “The Last Tiger,” a post-release story mission that launched in December “a resounding denouncement of fascism in all its forms,” even if its main playable character was another German tank commander.

“Not making any political statements,” therefore seems to be another line of cover trying to keep the game and its makers out of message board arguments — and stories like the one that pinched them this morning.

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