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 Wolfenstein  Removed From Sale In Germany Due To Nazi Symbols
Wolfenstein Removed From Sale In Germany Due To Nazi Symbols
September 22, 2009 | By Chris Remo

September 22, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Raven Software's latest game, the shooter sequel Wolfenstein, has been pulled from sale in Germany, after publisher Activision Blizzard realized some Nazi iconography was present in the German version of the game.

Swastikas and other Nazi symbols are forbidden from appearing in games released in the country, leading to the outright banning of the game's 1992 prequel Wolfenstein 3D in the country.

Although the company attempted to remove all swastikas from the German version of the game, various German-language sources including a report claim the recall was instituted this week.

Activision Blizzard indicated that the decision to recall was made despite the offending images being a fairly minor portion of the overall game that had evidently been omitted from the localization process.

Many of the discrepancies between the two versions of the game have been documented on the Wolfenstein page on German-language site Schnittbericht. The page also includes a screen capture depicting at least one instance of a (very small) swastika which escaped erasure, pictured above.

Activision Blizzard is expected to announce its plans for Wolfenstein in Germany in the near future.

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Fiore Iantosca
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Not surprised. Germany has some of the strictest rules with regard to anti-semitism and it's symbols.

Joshua Sterns
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That's a big FAIL for QA and Localization.

I really am fancinated by the German goverment. The censorship seems odd. Many German's that I have talked too don't enjoy the WWII subject, but they also don't deny that part of their history. Of course I haven't talked to enough of the nation's populace to form an accurate assumption. Very interesting stuff.

Jonathan Josenhans
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@ Joshus Sterns:

In Germany you are allowed to depict NS symbols for documentary purposes. But not in a fictional context.

The basic idea behind that is, that there should not be a space to celebrate or needlessly depict Nazi symbols in Germany. Even though that sometime seems like a bit of overkill, it makes sure that Nazi symbols are not seen in German public, which is the very least today's Germany can do for people who suffered from the Nazis.

I think Germany, like only very few other countries in the world, has really reflected on the horrible moments in our history, which leads to regulations like this.

Fiore Iantosca
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I used to work with a software developer from Germany. Really nice, bright guy. He said most Germans are VERY ashamed of what went on during WW2. It's really not a surprise they have this stance that Jonathan states.

Christopher Wragg
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Hrm, This reaction is understandable, but I wouldn't condone it. I've always believed that such a wholesale removal of a piece of iconography only reinforces and strengthens that which it was banned for. Education is more effective than obfuscation when it comes to dealing with symbols, and the swastika has only been associated with Nazi's for a 100 years of it's 5000 year old existence. I would think that teaching what the swastika stands for and it's place in other religions (Buddhism, Hinduism etc), would be far more effective at removing that tarnish. Effectively teaching the Nazi message to be wrong by subverting it's icons, thus removing their power. Sure it'll be a long time before the swastika is your average friendly symbol to be worn in similar fashion to a Christian cross, but still it would be more effective than this planting of ones head in the sand.

Onto more direct matters, isn't this a game about killing Nazi's, and in fact doesn't the game make them out in an even more negative light (if such is possible), wouldn't this logically be something that Germany would support having played? Unless its about a bad image/publicity, then that makes a lot more sense, though withdrawing support for the game could be viewed just as negatively as supporting it. Either way tis a very confused issue, though I'm sure there is easily a way to take the game and spin a really good PR story from it.

Daniel Rivas Perez
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Germany doesn't "plant its head in the sand" when it comes to the Second World War and the Nazi party. For example, it is usual for schools to organise a yearly trip to a concentration camp, in order to teach pupils about the atrocities that went on in such places.

I believe the idea with the banning of swastikas in video games is because the government sees games (perhaps rightly) as frivolous, and the swastika should be taken seriously.

Tom Newman
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I've spent a few (non-consecutive) months living in Berlin, and most German's I know avoid discussing WWII, and get really uncomfortable when you bring it up. Why they even bothered releasing this excellent Nazi-killing extravaganza in Germany is what I question.

Rodney Brett
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Several years back, the KKK held a recruitment meeting in NYC and the mayor and governor let them have their meeting. Why? Because as much as 90% of the population is against what they stand for and promote, the first amendment is worth protecting more so than silencing an unpopular point of view, regardless if it condones hatred and violence. Most of the protesters were young college students.

As a college teacher, this is something that scares me in a lot of today's youth. They don't even realize that democracy is being taken away from them and they(the younger generations) are agreeing to it.

Personally, I agree with Christopher on this issue. If you completely "ban" swastikas, then a young German student may see one on a Buddhist temple and not understand that when it points to the left, it means something completely different. It was Hitler that tainted and perverted it's original meaning. It's unfair to rob it's original history to the German people. You know how many hate crimes I've seen in which some dumb kids spray painted what they thought were swastikas.(they pointed them in the wrong direction.)

Chad Metrick
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I agree with Rodney and Christopher in that young Germans should be given the opportunity to learn about the symbol's original meanings/uses without the obstruction of a ban. However, its primary meaning today for much of the western world is, and probably will remain for the foreseeable future, undeniably linked to the Nazis, with its former identity being relegated to a mere footnote, like it or not. That said, I still disagree with its being banned.

Chris Remo
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It's been stated a few times in this comment thread that swastikas are not banned wholesale in Germany and are allowed in nonfictional contexts.

David Delanty
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I think it's worth emphasizing that the game was not demanded to be pulled from the German government, but was voluntarily pulled by Activision. While people may have their opinions on this motion being too strict, and that their swastika censorship practices can be overkill, nowhere is it stated that ATVI was pressed by government officials to do this.

I also don't think it is too terribly limiting on game developers in Germany to restrict usage of Swastikas to educational/historical context, there is one thing they restrict that does bug me. Blood. You can pick up a rocket launcher, blast a fuel barrel next to a guy, and launch his carcass into orbit. But if he leaks one drop of blood, the game gets pulled? If people want to chastise the German government for being excessive in its practices of content restriction, I'd say forget the Swastika (because at least that has some merit considering their history). The 'no blood' rule is way more severe and limiting to game designers, in my opinion.

Doug Poston
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Not to defend censorship but, as Jonathan pointed out, Nazi symbols are NOT banned in Germany. There is plenty of literature, media, and educational resources on the Nazi in Germany (including the actual preserved death camps, Nazi HQs, tanks, planes, etc.). Your average German knows a lot more about what Nazi symbols stand for then most people in the world.

In Germany, Nazi symbols ARE banned in fiction. I'm not sure if I agree this is right, but I can understand (and respect) why they feel this way.

If Wolfenstein was a virtual tour of a real Nazi HQ in WW2 for educational purposes (not a fictional game for entertainment), it wouldn't have been banned.

Tyler Peters
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@ Christian -

Out of curiosity - did you see Inglorious Bastards playing in Germany? I had read in a film forum that it played there, Nazi symbols and all. I'm wondering how that movie, being a work of fiction, was able to get away with it.

And I stand corrected if what I read was wrong.

Kevin Reese
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It's a regrettable situation, but no doubt Activision was wise to pull the game voluntarily. Some opportunist litigators probably would have come out of the wood-work had they not.

Though the extremely cynical side of me whispers into my ear that perhaps this would have been good marketing for the game if the German courts became involved. After all, the sales are low for this title.

I feel for whomever was responsible for the offending graphics -- hopefully their career(s) will not be too damaged by this.

Wolfenstein's offending imagery had nothing on the '94 Wolfenstein game though , which had all those repeating tiles of swastikas, swastika shaped maps, and mecha-Hitler as a boss. And was consequently very much banned by the German courts.

Christopher Wragg
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@Chris Remo

indeed, right you are, I was perhaps a bit to exuberant with my use of language there. Either way removing them from a "fictional" context is bad anyway. Its in fictional contexts that most people would view the icon, a very large portion of any population doesn't care enough about any given issue to go out and learn about it, most are happy to take much of what they learn via entertainment mediums (tv, movies, books) at face value. In this way the removal of the symbol in fictional works, while not a total ban, actually reduces the amount of everyday talk over the issue to the point that it is more effective than a ban (because it's not sensational if it's not banned). Out of sight, out of mind so to speak, and as such it's very much a case of burying ones head in the sand.

Christopher Wragg
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Firstly sorry about the double Post

@Rodney Brett

Actually Buddhists used both left and right facing Swastikas as did Nazis. In Buddhism they merely mean different things (Mercy = left | Strength = right), while the Nazis used different facings for the land flag and the ensign. So those kids were technically right, thought to be most correct they'd have to use a right facing swastika, as that was the most prevalent form (swastikas on land being more common than on water it became a kind of standard).

Alexander Hofstädter
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@ Christopher Wragg:

It might be true that people don't care enough about certain things to learn about them on their own, but German high school kids have to learn about WWII and all of its atrocities anyway. There is absolutely no loss of education value risked by removing swastikas from computer games.

Also, the swastika is not banned from all forms of non-documentary use as has been pointed out. It can be seen in all sorts of movies and other possibly entertaining material. It's only that to this day, there is no governmental consensus on whether games are actually art. Therefore the liberties of art don't apply to games (yet?).