Real Life Controversy Boils Up In MMO Update

Buried among the patch notes for this months update to the popular international MMO World of Tanks was this little tidbit:

– Wittmann’s Medal substituted with Boelter’s Medal

It didn’t take long for people to notice it standing out in the midst of number crunching statistics changes around reload times and traverse angles.  And the obvious question was: why?  In the same manner, it didn’t take long for a few forum members (game updates are actually announced and detailed on the head developers blog first) to come over and explain why.  You see, Wittmann was a Nazi.

As you can see, the normal game drama about updates took a radical real life turn at this point.  Nobody was griping over who got nerfed and who was OP!  To briefly unpack both sides of that argument, here’s a few of the highlights:

Those in favor of the change point out that:

1) WoT has always had a policy not allowing the promotion or encouragement of national socialism in any way.  In the past, this rule has been enforced around Clans that have tried to take the name of SS Panzer units or anyone who utilized the pageantry or RP flavor of such a unit.  Some people have pointed out the dual standard of having a medal named after arguably the most famous tank ace of the SS.

2) That Wittmann was not just a tanker who happened to be in a Nazi unit.  He was in the Allgemeine SS from 1936 onwards.  There is no evidence to suggest he was anything other than a true supporter of the Nazi party and its policies.

Those arguing against the change have pointed out:

1) The Soviet Guards units weren’t exactly angels themselves, and there is no evidence that any of the tankers who have elite medal’s named after them in the game committed war crimes directly.

2) Most of the war crimes committed by the SS were in fact done by the SS-Totenkopfverbände units, who were in charge of the concentration camps, and were in fact an independent unit that had its own command structure separate from that of the Waffen-SS.  (If that’s confusing, basically it boils down to this – Wittmann was involved in the general SS organization, but when it split between the two above named units, Wittmann went with the front line army branch, not the political MP/Paramiltary branch directly responsible for carrying out the holocaust).

As of awhile ago, Overlord disable the comments section of his blog, which was rapidly descending into a firestorm of critique and name calling that went above and beyond the usual trolling.  Probably a smart move on his part.  But me…well, I think there is a worthy discussion to be had.  Please add your two cents in, and feel free (you fellow bloggers) to weigh in on the discussion in your own realms as well, I’ll be sure to link them here.

For my part, I find the argument separating the tank aces themselves from atrocities committed by their respective armies and countries pretty compelling.  I’m also not convinced that when one says “Michael Wittmann” it immediately conjures up images of war crimes or the holocaust.  He was simply a good tank commander.

On the other hand, I am not Jewish, nor am I from Europe, or in particular from Russia or any of the other former states of the USSR.  So while I am not personally touched or haunted by this, I can see that it would be possible that others were and are.  And I supposed you could just chalk this up to good PR or marketing for Wargaming.  After all, its a small, non-mechanical change to their game that has the potential to garner it more attention and acceptance in the European community, which is arguably a bigger market for them than us here in the US.

Your thoughts?


8 thoughts on “Real Life Controversy Boils Up In MMO Update

  1. Wittmann had to go.

    If you are going to have a policy of no glorification of national socialism, you can’t start waffling about who in the SS was a “real” Nazi and who was not. The SS was declared to be a criminal organization in whole at Nuremberg. There were no “good” SS men versus “bad” among those who volunteered for it. (If you were a late war conscript, you might be excused.) There was plenty of movement of personnel between the branches, enough to remove any idea that the Waffen SS was somehow distinct from the rest of the SS.

    I am surprised that a Russian company let this sort of thing go in the first place. If any nation after Israel and Poland should be holding a grudge, it is Russia.

    That said, there is certainly room for discussion in the study of Nazi Germany as to levels of commitment to national socialism. You can find true believers and opportunists who just needed a job and thought the party would give them a leg up in the ranks. Though how much that matters is up for debate as well. Eichmann joined the SS because it seemed like a good career move rather than out of any political conviction, yet he became one of the main architects of the Holocaust. Does that make him better or worse than a true believer?

  2. You may need to identify the that this is about World of Tanks earlier in the post. It took me a while to figure out what game you were talking about, and then only by deciphering the dev blog link. 🙂

  3. RedWolf

    They were pressured to change it by the GERMAN government, who have strict laws against glorifying the Nazis and the SS.

  4. @ Wilhelm: Or better or worse than Wittmann. Good point and solid argument. I would perhaps point out that the condemnation of the SS at Nuremberg was a political move rather than criminal indictment. And that there were far more conscripts to the SS than most people seem to realize. I was friends with a Mark IV driver in the 9th SS until his passing last year. The vast majority of the division was made up of conscripts like him who had spent the years avoiding party membership and ducking enlistment.

    I think its probably the right move on the whole. But it does mess with my sense of fair play that Soviet Guards tankers are still allowed to keep their hallowed places. Still, I have heard first hand that Russia is not in any way concerned with the sort of political correctness that we here in the US are sometimes obsessed with, so I’m not surprised.

    @RedWolf: If you are who I think you are, your reputation proceeds you. And I mean that in a good way! Though I’m not a fan of some of the chuckleheads in your clan. Also a good point and probably the final motivating factor here.

    @ Rowan: I will edit the post to make it a little more clear. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Ooh, a Hohenstaufen vet? A lot of Hungarian Volksdeutsche got swept up into the 9th, but I would consider them mostly a “late war” formation when the SS decided to become an army unto itself and let a lot of ideological and racial barriers to entry fall by the wayside, and introduced conscription, which I injected into my comment as the allowable exception.

    But Wittman was in the LAH. A lot less ambiguity there.

    As for Soviet Guards Divisions, for all the evils the Soviet Union committed before, during, and after the war, and that was one of my fields of study in college, they paid the price in blood for defeating Nazi Germany. I’m still surprised, 20 years later, that they allowed German reunification given the price they paid. We owe them. They may fly their regimental standards proudly on that basis alone, as far as I am concerned.

    Or as an old Polish joke goes, and the Poles suffered from both side, a Polish soldier sees a German soldier approaching from the west and a Russian soldier approach from the east, who does he shoot first? The German, duty before pleasure.

    1. Eh, I’d be careful about making any sort of reciprocity argument around war crimes. I’m not sure any price in blood justifies the systematic mass kidnapping and rape of women in occupied Poland, for example.

      But yes, a Hohenstaufen vet. I got very few war stories from him, but quite a few Soviet prison stories over the years, which is probably the basis of my bias here. (-:

      Still, I completely agree, Wittman/LAH, less ambiguity. Clearly what we would call an “early adopter.” In today’s terms, he probably would have been one of the people standing in line for the launch of the Ipad 1.

  6. Bleeder

    I’m british and i personally think it should have been left in , ok you could say it was promoting an ss officer and I understand and respect that it may be bad for some , but Whitmann was and still is remembered mostly for what he was and what de done best , A Tank Commander and Tank Ace of world war 2. Alright he was part of the ss but I think that was just because he was a soar throat , a Medal Hunter as was most after they recieved the first “iron cross” i believe it was , whether or not he was moved to that panzer group by choice , through promotion or notably because of his skills , either way its a game about tanks in all respects , and nothing to do with hitler or the ss or even the holocause so in my 2 cents , i Think he should have been left in , after all , not all men were bad , there are stories of how airmen would duel , one guys guns would jam and the enemy “A german from one story I heard” had noticed this and simply left him fly home to fight another day , after all , he was only there to shoot down planes that were dangerous. One story i heard on greatest air combat i think it was , even flew up next to a britsh pilot and pointed to him to turn around as we lost and heading in the wrong direction , so honour did exist amongst men , even if it was in war times. Heck The Red Baron from WW1 Payed respects to a dead pilot , who’s combat skills was acknowledged by both sides of the war and the jot what ever “the flying circus they were nicknamed” flew over and dropped a reef saying RIP – What ever the british guys name was. So that’s my opinion feel free to judge it as you wish , I just think you shouldn’t over look the fact that this game is about tanks and not the war in general , hell like hot wheels racing or hawx , only with tanks from bad time. But then we all must be interested in some way or form of the war or we wouldn’t be playing this game….

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