Sunday, 10 January 2016

Briefly on Battlefield Recovery

My blog was going to have two words in it: tax return. But then the escalation of the outrage around the Battlefield Recovery requires me to say a few words more.

Finnish archaeologists, with the first among them Jan Fast who had been approached by the programme makers and duly turned it down after understanding just how gong-ho it was going to be, had thought this actually never got made, but apparently it did. For obvious reasons, I did not even watch it, since my colleague already wondered in the Finnish archaeologists’ meeting in 2014 how this got even to the preproduction stage and just hoped it was going to be buried as a very bad idea. Well, it got made and was dropped from programming by the National Geography and recently in Australia after viewers did complain. Now the same may happen in Britain.

One can see how this kind of thing got discussed with. It is TV after all. It is also true that different countries allow war dead retrieval parties to repatriate bodies and there are all kinds of bilateral and other treaties between countries. The Finnish war hero repatriation societies have regularly visited Russia and Karelia in search of lost relatives and men from their villages since the Glasnost started. It is also true that in many countries these graves fall outside the Antiquities Laws as they are less than 100 years of age. Nevertheless, at least in Finland all Christian burials are covered by the principal of ‘burial peace’. In addition, anything potentially with military equipment is considered belonging to the Army by definition and they have their own property regulations. The regulations elsewhere around the Baltic Sea are naturally different. In addition, there are cultural differences in attitudes towards handling bones and bodies, but there are ethics - and remembering good manners.

Reburying the bodies of war brings closure to the grieving or admiring, but these programme makers were not recovering their own dead, they were dabbling with somebody else’s. They were probably just hoping for the viewer numbers uplift anything to do with ‘Nazis’ brings. sad but probably true.

For World War Two research appreciating our past, look for German camp in Hanko, Finland, 1942-1944, studies on the Channel Islands and Dark Heritage.

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