My Memory Of Us is a Holocaust story with robots and hmmm

You know what I would never have the courage to think about creating? A game set during the Holocaust. Good gravy, you’ve got to have some courage to go there. That’s what Polish developers Juggler Games have just announced their intentions to do, with My Memory of Us [official site]. And, um, it has robots in it.

Ho boy. This could go wrong.

Right, so, it’s not actually the WW2 Holocaust, but it is apparently entirely based on it, on real events that took place in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, but it’s allegorical. We’ve got an evil King, robot soldiers, and the friendship between a boy and a girl that struggles to survive their suffering. At the same time, this is the developers’ tribute to their ancestors who went through the real thing. The project’s creative director, Jakub Jabłoński, explains,

“My Memory of Us is in fact a tribute to our loved ones. We wanted to tell their stories to the world, about their tough childhood experiences; about their nostalgia, their longing for real friendship, and about together opposing the great danger that is war. One day the Evil King simply changed all the rules. He segregated people – some were marked as better, others as worse. He created his own rules and harshly punished anyone who was brave enough to oppose him. Our protagonists don’t agree to this new way of things, to the terror of the tyrant and his army of robots. They decide to find their own paths in this gloomy, yet fascinating world.”

This is the trailer that accompanies this:

Hmmm, I’m just not sure. Cutesy side-scrolling romance in a holocaust? Flying trains and whales, evil robots… Part of me thinks: Yes! Fairy tale is one of the most effective ways of communicating horror. Other parts of me think: No! If you’re going to talk about it, talk about it.

Here’s a slightly random aside. Many years ago I was on a press trip for Call Of Duty II. So probably around 2004. Activision took us to Poland, and it was all of extremely dubious taste. We’re talking giant monitors and speakers set up to show the game inside Wolf’s Lair. There were also people dressed up as Nazis. Good lord. Anyway, the next day we met some of the Poles who had been playing the Nazis, and it turns out they were members of a war re-enactment society who had become fed up of, and this is a quote, pretending trees were the Nazis. They decided if they were going to do it, they needed to do it with a degree of respect, and with an understanding of the severity of it all. One guy told me about his grandfather, a German who had been drafted into the Nazis and was brave enough to go AWOL, fleeing to Poland to fight against his own nation’s forces.

He had his uniform, his original papers, note books, everything. It was chilling to touch them. He spoke about his grandfather with reverence, and he understood what those items had represented and what they’d done to his own ancestors. And I understood, kind of, how he could put on those clothes and play the baddies in those re-enactments.

So this – My Memory of Us – is a game made by Poles who want to speak about what happened to their grandparents and great-grandparents. And remembering that guy I met back then, in Poland, I realise that for me the Holocaust is a horrifying entry in history – my grandfather (a medic) fought against the Nazis and lived, but that’s as close as it comes to meaningfully touching my life. So I bristle at the potential problems of this game from a distance, and maybe it’s none of my business doing that.

Anyway, that wandered off track from posting a trailer. Sorry about that.

From this site

65 Comments

  1. aepervius says:

    I am not sure I agree with you that cutesy bar the horror . It can reinforce it.

    Imagine that as the game progress the cutesy sprite becomes more ragged, wounded, their other cutesy sprite neighbors dying, up to the point in the final scene that the holocaust horror is visited in plain with the cutesy sprite being forced into a shower it never comes out of alive.

    That would match your “show it!” , and the initial cute sprite would reinforce it. And it would be an horror expected, wrenching, that you can however you wish never avoid.

    The fairy tale initial start may simply a good way to reinforce the ending horror much better than if the sprite had been ragged and not good looking from the start.

  2. Grizzly says:

    I am also rather hmmming over this, partly becuase the most terrifying thing of the holocaust was that it was done entirely by humans.

    But I am open to the possibility that a not-real holocaust might be a better way to get the message across to children and past countries which are sensetive about the usage of nazi imagery in entertainment products.

    • TheSortingHat7 says:

      I literally just created an account in order to agree with this. Not only was it one of the most terrifying aspects of WW2 – it’s the singular most important thing we should learn from it in my opinion and it always kind of terrifies me the way so many people don’t see it (and/or don’t want to?). Because it’s easier to dehumanize the Nazi than face how human and ‘normal’ most of those people actually were.

      • Tom89 says:

        Yeah this. One of the biggest dangers with regard to Holocaust remembrance is forgetting that huge numbers of ‘ordinary people’ either ignored or actively facilitated it. Making them machines seems questionable imo.

        There’s a really excellent old French documentary that covers this ground (I forget the name). It interviews kindly old French OAPs who, at first claim to hate the Nazis (even to have helped the resistance), but, as the interviewer pushes deeper, start admitting things like “oh yeah, I actually shopped in my Jewish neighbors in because their hedges were overhanging my garden” etc. Super chilling iirc.

  3. ButteringSundays says:

    I’m assuming you’ve never read the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus, John? You should.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      On that note, not videogames, but – in my last job I was a support worker for a student on a creative writing class, and on their representation-in-fiction module I found it absolutely fascinating seeing the reactions from some of the students who’d never heard of Maus before.

      Some of them found it really, really offensive that anyone could dare presume to retell the story of the Holocaust as a cartoon, is what I’m saying. And yes, the lecturer made it perfectly clear what Spiegelman’s connection to the material was, what all the symbolism was etc., etc.

      • ButteringSundays says:

        People can be weird about mediums I guess. Or maybe it’s metaphor they’re not comfortable with?

        Either way it surprises me that anyone could be offended by Maus – it’s incredible – people can be funny creatures (pun intended)!

        • iainl says:

          Maus, the actual book, is a profound work that deals with a horrifying subject in a sensitive manner, and has a number of important things to say.

          However, the image of Maus that appears in the head of someone that has only heard a description of what it is and hasn’t actually read a comic more challenging than Whizzer & Chips or 60s Batman, feels like it would be about the single worst example of fiction in the history of media. So I can understand that.

          • Eight Rooks says:

            Just to stress that in my case at least these students had multiple sample pages on the projector, as handouts etc. – they were drawing no mistaken conclusions about it. There was one of them I’d talked to a few times outside of class, as he lived near me and came in to the main campus on the same bus route: perfectly nice chap, but as I remember it he was adamant this was something no author should do under any circumstances. (He might well have changed his mind since, I dunno, but still.) Cool story, bro, maybe, but I honestly found it fascinating. In my mind, nothing is out of bounds for any creative media, or too soon in theory (I can appreciate it frequently doesn’t work out so well in practice).

    • Vandelay says:

      Maus immediately sprung to mind when I was reading this post. But, I think there are some differences that stand out. The big one being that Maus was always actually set in WW2 and didn’t pretend to be otherwise.

      To take another example, look at Pan’s Labyrinth. That was a fairy tale, but used the brutal and graphic depiction of the Spanish Civil War as a backdrop to this, in order to create a moving tale of lost innocence.

      Here they are creating a completely fictional and somewhat playful setup so that they can address something very real and very distressing. That isn’t to say that this couldn’t work, nor that the use of a clash of tones as seen in the trailer won’t heighten the power of what the developers want to say, but it could end up being cringe-worthy or, at worse, unintentionally offensive.

      • Rizlar says:

        Even stylistically, Maus isn’t sweetly decorative like this game. Yes it has animals but it’s closer to modernist woodcuts of the period to my eyes. It’s fucking harsh and angsty.

        That said, I do like the look of this game, those backgrounds are gorgeous. Hope it succeeds and does justice to the history.

  4. Kommissar Hedgehog says:

    It’s worth pointing out that the red coat of the apparent protagonist is possibly a nod to Schindler’s List.

  5. Sin Vega says:

    To be fair, while rather impractical, it is possible to despatch Nazis by jumping on their heads.

  6. laggyluk says:

    I suppose executions, piles of wretched bodies and swastikas all over the place wouldn’t help to sell it

  7. Outsour says:

    Hmm. I think this brings up an interesting discussion on the boundaries of artistic license when portraying an actual tragedy. I think it all comes down to whether you see a medium as lessening the impact of an actual event. There is an argument to be made for an against. Personally, I feel that, if a tragedy is retold in a genuine manner, then the medium doesn’t matter.

    Also, an aside, but I think the situation you portrayed with Call of Duty 2 is completely different from the situation with this game. You have something where people, rightfully, felt that their ancestor’s strife was being co-opted for marketing a game, and the genuine retelling of an actual Holocaust story by an ancestor of the Holocaust survivor through a creative medium. The situations have nazis and video games, yes, but they’re completely different in motivation and circumstance.

  8. Bobsy says:

    I like the concept a lot – that the horrors of the Holocaust can be seen through the filter of a child’s perception of it. It’s not a new idea; The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas also observes things via a child’s perspective.

    (And though I’ve neither read the book nor watched the movie, I gather A Monster Calls is – similar to My Memory of Us- about a child retreating into fantasy to deal with difficult real-world events? Correct me if I’m wrong)

    And I disagree that it is inherently disingenuous as an approach. John’s cry of “talk about it” may be misplaced. What should be the focus of a Holocaust story? The events themselves or the effect that the events had on the people involved? Or both? If My Memory Of Us can accurately and compassionately tell the story of the effect the Ghettos and camps had on those unfortunate enough to be caught up in them and also make the case that children are not fully equipped to understand the brutal horrors being inflicted on them at the same time, I would posit that that would be a more effective story overall.

    But my worry is not really the presentation but the game itself. I was sucked in by a similarly-presented game called Valiant Hearts: The Great War which was a cartoony-styled side-scroller set in WW1. Only it was dull and unsatisfying to play so I never got anywhere with it. The mechanics and theme seemed totally divorced. And that’s really my worry about The Memory Of Us – if there’s not enough game in there to satisfy, or the mechanics belittle the message the game wants to get across, it won’t work.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Ghostbird says:

    From the press release it’s about the Warsaw Ghetto rather than the camps. I feel that makes a difference, although I’m not sure I can completely articulate why. If nothing else, it’s very much part of Polish history so I think the devs have more right than many to decide how to treat it.

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      I agree.

      Well said.

    • thelastpointer says:

      You are entirely right. It is a very important part of Polish history; they are very determined not to forget it and to educate people about it.

      The early judging of the game is… tasteless.

      • John Walker says:

        I think it says a disturbing amount that I wrote an article that asked questions, considered both sides of the issues, and drew the same conclusion as you angrily declare here, and you decide to imagine I only wrote the half you disagreed with.

        • thelastpointer says:

          I might have misunderstood you. From what I see, this game is a way for some people to remember their history, and I can’t imagine how can there be “potential problems” with that.

      • Unpoetic says:

        I in the contrary, find it quiet concerning that you don’t seem to even consider the clearly stated concerns that John makes here and brush them to the wayside that easily.

        Putting the Shoah in relation to a work of fiction can easily lead to a relativisation of it. Even if it wasn’t intended as such. And it happens all the time, maybe not as much in the visual arts as in books and conversation, where putting the Holocaust in relation to other historical tragedies is commonplace.

        Criticizing a work of art on how it handles and depicts this subject matter is well warranted, as not to diminish and trivialize the singularity of the Holocaust in human history.
        One thing, questioning and starting a dialog about this certainly isn’t, is tasteless.

    • John Walker says:

      I never mentioned the word “camps”, but did write, “real events that took place in the Jewish ghetto in Poland.”

      I also wrote a long anecdote to explain why I considered that my reaction is irrelevant because this is Polish devs talking about their own ancestry.

      So I’m entirely confused about what you’re correcting.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ghostbird says:

        Sorry – I didn’t really intend that to come across as a correction. I was thinking about why there was less hmmm (although still some) in my reaction than in yours and the ways the different strands of history being invoked – Jewish, Polish, and family – affect the reading.

      • batraz says:

        I’m not sure there is some sort of copyright on past sufferings, so I don’t get the logic behind the “right to talk about such or such issues”. If there was any “right to talk” outside of the schoolyard, it would depend on being informed and being smart, imho. And maybe being good-willed too, which is more difficult to achieve.
        The main point about succeeding in relating painful events is doing it right, as Spiegelman did, but who knows how that works exactly ?

    • TheDandyGiraffe says:

      Well, one of the reasons why you feel the ghetto/camp thing “makes a difference” may be due to the fact that the people in the Warsaw ghetto had at least some political agency and organisational capability; they were able to organise a genuine uprising against the Nazis, which became one of the most dramatic events of the whole WW2. Meanwhile, victims of the German death camps and concentration camps were largely defined by their total helplessness; one of the main purposes of the camps was to deprive them of all sense of humanity and agency.

      And that’s how both groups are usually portrayed in works of fiction: on the one hand, you have those who are forced to be unimaginably passive, with nothing left, no subjectivity of their own; on the other hand, there are those who are still able to organise and resist. The latter group seems somehow more suited to appear in a video game.

  10. xyzzy frobozz says:

    I’m just not sure that as an “artform”, that gaming has reached a level of maturity for this to be a thing.

    Nor am I sure that gaming can yet be considered a bona-fide “artform”.

    Then again, maybe it’s games like this that will elevate gaming into an art.

    • Shazbut says:

      Maybe gamification is inherently problematic when it comes to sensitive subjects. eg. Slave Tetris

    • gunny1993 says:

      I don’t really understand how one would determine when something has reached a given level of ‘art’ for any given thing to be appropriate.

      I mean, is there a point system? Did painting get 100 points in abstract modernism before it was allowed to move onto cubism?

      Sass aside, I don’t think anyone can say that any given thing is appropriate or inappropriate until the actual thing has been viewed and assessed on a personal level. And even then its in the eye of the beholder, art is an abstract concept in the best of times.

      • xyzzy frobozz says:

        I’m glad you put the sass aside, because it was some pretty silly sass!

        Particularly when you went on to acknowledge that it’s a subjective measure.

        Subjectively, I’m not sure that the holocaust can ever be handled tastefully by a game. Because that’s what we’re talking about here – games.

        I’m not making an absolute statement here either. I’m just giving an opinion that I’m not sure that computer games can ever be more art than game. Therefore I’m not sure that certain subject matters should, or can, be the subject of games.

        Whilst I remain unconvinced, I am keeping an open mind on it. Hence why I have said I’m “not sure”.

        :-)

    • Marr says:

      No form would ever progress if nobody pushed past the perceived limits.

      • xyzzy frobozz says:

        I agree.

        That’s why I have said that games like this could be the ones that change things.

        I’m just not sure that they will.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Are you joking? If you’ve never played a game that you could confidently call art then you’re missing out – there are many of them out there; maybe this will be one of them. It may be an industry that’s taken less seriously (like graphic novels) but that in no way delegitimises what has been achieved in the medium. I mean how could you perceive a movie or a book as art but not an interactive story? By what criteria are you defining art, exactly?

      There are a million places to start, but a game I played recently that comes to mind is Abzu, you should check it out. That should meet anyone’s rigid definition.

  11. haldolium says:

    “Hmmm, I’m just not sure. Cutesy side-scrolling romance in a holocaust? Flying trains and whales, evil robots… Part of me thinks: Yes! Fairy tale is one of the most effective ways of communicating horror. Other parts of me think: No! If you’re going to talk about it, talk about it.”

    I share that sentiment. If it’s done in an abstract tale, there is always a high risk of not communicating the severeness of events like the holocaust.

    But on the other hand, given the vast amount of military shooters and other genres which are putting such a skewed narative on most wars in the history, it is long overdue to approach these subjects from another perspective and under a different light.

    A WW2 game from an exclusive German perspective is long overdue as well.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I don’t know what such a game would achieve. To the grenadier on the ground war is pretty similar on either side. FPS wouldn’t be much different, what could an adventure achieve? Yeah, everyone has a family and loved ones and his comerades dying around him.
      Strategy? Germany couldn’t have won a 2-front-war against US and Russia even with the best strategy. Only an indoctrinated populace could have believed otherwise.
      The perspective is always “we are right and the other guy is the enemy”. If the over-arching political motives are good in a classical moral sense is another question altogether.

      • haldolium says:

        @Chaoslord AJ

        “I don’t know what such a game would achieve.”

        Of course the actual nature of the game, or genre if you will, would play a major role. When that thought first crossed my min over 15 years ago, talking with a friend about CoD and MoH, it already was rather clear that a similar fashioned FPS would probably provoke the wrong ideas.

        The idea is however of a more general thing, since what we got now (still…) is an extreme black and white, good vs. evil way, which has created a way too solid base (thanks to most of the titles are marketing-heavy AAA games) how games work and are accepted by players and displayed in general.

        There are plenty of developers, usually within indipendet development, who strive to achieve different goals and slowly developing it into an actual art form instead of mere commerce entertainment. And I think with the proper setup, sensitive topics should be included in games as well. It is absurd how extreme violence and a general egocentric view is commonly accepted but as soon as sensitive topics come up, many people suddenly have such concerns. I can only imagine that it is due to constraints and problems with good storytelling and the overal struggle to achieve a meaningful game world with realistic characters and stories beyond the level of a Michael Bay movie.

        A game with a sensitive (historical or not) topic is more endangered to offend there.

        But that kind of “courage” is needed, you have to start somewhere and the sooner, the better.

        @Thankmar

        I would not agree there. It’s more a matter of “how” and not “what” and that is a broader issue when it comes to games (see above).
        What the rest of the German media has to say or not should be of no concern since they seldom have a clue when it comes to games and are still very disconnected from the reality in their very own country.

        • Thankmar says:

          What I meant was not the reaction of other media but that a game developing company would tend to produce a game with the revisionist historic view I described, because the media as a whole and therefore also a game developer as part of this media seem to share this view.

          I talked about the reaction of other media in the case a small indie company would produce a game which depicts the horrors germans have done without including some kind of absolution for them. In that case, it would get heavily criticised. I mentioned it to underline that there will be no game one way or the other in the coming decade or so, because the developer would face commercial and critical failure in germany.
          For instance, there was a massive rejection of the Wehrmachtsausstellung, which did nothing than to document the crimes german did in WWII.

      • tormeh says:

        An FPS could definitely work. Spec Ops: The Line shows it can. The protagonist could be a member of the Dirlewanger Brigade. It doesn’t get any darker than that. In fact, the problem would then be that the game would easily be too harsh on the Germans, as Dirlewanger was seen as barbaric even by other SS officers. That’s a pretty low bar. For reference, the Dirlewanger Brigade (36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS) was basically the real life equivalent of The Scarlet Chorus from Tyranny.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      There’s plenty of games where you play as the Nazis.

      Actually ungamed perspectives from WWII are stuff like the Polish resistance during the Warsaw Uprising, the Chinese clusterfuck, the Finnish side of the conflict, the Italian campaign in Africa, the Partisan War in Eastern Europe, and basically the entire civilian side of the conflict… Not yet another game with Panthers in it.

    • Thankmar says:

      Be careful what you wish for. Media in Germany are completely in “seduced innocence” mode right now, the dominant narrative is somewhat like the nazis landed like aliens in Germany and brainwashed them all, and with the victory of the allied, there were only victims and no offenders. Recent movies like Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter are an example of that, and a video game that should make profit would have to use the same narrative. An indie, nonprofit project which actually depicts the horrors the Germans have done would get panned as something like a self loathing guilt thing, along with dismissive verbiage like “nobody needs that”.

      • Thankmar says:

        Ah, okay, I read “german perspective” as “from german developers”. Never mind.

      • Neutrino says:

        This.

        In fact that appears to be the dominant narrative everywhere. Including this website.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          For good reason, because it’s true? I mean what’s the alternative, that Germans were born evil at the start of the twentieth century and then got over it?

          If the US were to start WWIII today then I can guarantee that most of the population of the US would be unwilling victims of that war, just as most Germans were during WWII.

          That in no way takes away from the horrors perpetrated by German nationals in the name of the Nazi party; on the contrary, that’s what makes it so terrifying looking at similar rhetoric in 2017.

          • Thankmar says:

            I would say it is important to remember that it is easy to appeal to peoples very basic instincts, like survival, when your country is in economic turmoil, and direct the anger and frustration over a hopeless situation that with no fault of your own you are in to some scapegoat, like Jews and other countries. The point is, there was no brainwashing, the Nazis evolved out of the misery, and the germans wanted them to happen.
            This is, given the current situation, pretty important to remember, like you said.
            But after the victory, Germany acted like no one was really involved with the Nazis, they just vanished. The historic view is now like everything was the Nazis fault, which was, but the Nazis were not part, or actually just were the german people, which then could be reeducated (and maybe even be thankful for that!), but some discrete entity. And thats dangerous, because no one here thinks it could, given the circumstances, happen again because the Nazis were this historical group of people who magically evilized the germans and now just do not exist any more.

          • Neutrino says:

            The alternative is to accept that an (at the time) modern democratic nation descended from populism driven politics into rampant nationalism followed by repression and tyranny, sparking a conflict with the rest of the world, and then to keep that in mind when we start curtailing basic rights like freedom of expression when people express views we don’t agree with.

            Germany in the lead up to WWII should always be a potent reminder to us of how quickly the combination of frustrated populations and self serving demogogues can get out of hand, but it can’t serve as that potent reminder if only sanitized interpretations of that history are tolerated.

            In some ways the western ‘liberal left’ (lets call it that despite the fact that ‘liberal’ in this case is a tragic misnomer) has a problem accepting the views of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. People who disagree with the ‘liberal left’ on issues like race, religion, immigration, gender, interpretation of historical events etc, aren’t just ‘of another opinion’ they are generally portrayed as immoral subhumans who shouldn’t even have the right to an opinion let alone a vote. This hypocrisy of dressing up as progressive and liberal while simultaneously being unable to countenance any other viewpoint has resulted in the message of the left looking incoherent, with the result that on both sides of the Atlantic the left is in the political wasteland, the far right is resurgent, and the voice of reason and balance is marginalised. I think that makes this lesson from history particularly pertinent.

            (I hope that was expressed sufficiently sensitively and didn’t cross any lines John).

    • ButteringSundays says:

      Germans don’t fetishize war like the allied countries have post WWII – it’s a point of national shame, so I don’t think that’s as likely for a few reasons. What tale would they be looking to tell anyway? And who would it be for?

  12. Penguin_Factory says:

    One day the Evil King simply changed all the rules. He segregated people – some were marked as better, others as worse. He created his own rules and harshly punished anyone who was brave enough to oppose him.

    *ACCIDENTAL RELEVANCE SIREN*

    Yeah, I’m always torn about stuff like this. I feel better about the fact that the devs are drawing on their own ancestor’s experiences, though.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Good point with the veiled Trump connection. And yeah, I wonder if a sort of indirect, enfabulated version of the Holocaust is a more effective cautionary tale, at this point, than a straight up period piece would be.

      • Premium User Badge

        tigerfort says:

        I agree that the connection to current events (in the US and elsewhere) is important, and makes this kind of art especially vital today. But I think dehumanisation of the Nazis is actually a serious mistake – it makes it so much easier for people to ignore the creeping banal evil around them because “we’re not evil robots”. (Or at least “only bad people do that stuff”.)

    • WhatDoesItAllMean says:

      To me, the most worrying part about the quote that you referenced is that the “Evil King” just decided one day to separate people and classify some as the “haves” and others as the “have-nots”: in this case, the haves being your propagandized, stereotypical German citizen, and the have-nots being jews, gays, intellectuals, opposers of the regime, etc. To me, this is a very VERY bad idea to keep promoting.

      Hitler did not just decide that Jewish people were bad and everyone was just so enamored or scared of him that they just agreed; there is no way one man could have that much power. These anti-Jewish, homophobic, anti-Communist sentiments had been building in Germany and, frankly, the rest of the Western world for YEARS, if not at least a century. Anti-Jewish sentiment, I dare say, wasn’t even that much of an unpopular sentiment either, and, as other commenters at the top of this comment thread have said, these ideas of typifying Hitler and Nazi Germany as this Evil King and lifeless robots, respectively, is actually very counter-productive towards general discourse about the human elements and the historical precedence for how something like the Holocaust could occur.

      It’s comforting to say “Don’t worry, those were people in the past, everyone in the past was racist/bigoted/homophobic.””Don’t worry, we’ll never see a Hitler again because we’re too smart and progressive as a society for anything like that to happen again.””Don’t worry, we as Americans/Brits/Westerners will never be fooled like that again, into scapegoating one group of people and blaming them for all the problems, crime, and violence in our countries”.

      I could go on, but hopefully my point and the parallels I’m drawing are obvious.

      • gi_ty says:

        I agree. It’s not helpful to frame a historical discussion in this way if the authors intent was to make a point about the historical precedents that allowed the holocaust to happen. The Jews were persecuted for centuries with well documented pogroms being carried out regularly in the Holy Roman Empire essentially as long as there were Jewish communities there. Their insular nature and unique practices has made them an easy target when people need political scapegoats. The holocaust had been happening for centuries, it just reached an apex in the 1940’s.
        However I don’t think that is the intent here. This seems to be focused on very a very personal level, with very personal horror. As that seems to be the main thrust of the narrative the detail of the baddies doesn’t seem as relevant.

  13. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Hm, difficult. On the one hand they want to express what they think via the game, maybe educate someone, on the other hand it’s always entertainment. Noone would play a game inside the real holocaust and direct and graphic atrocities are intellectually hard to grasp for a generation raised in peace.
    Not sure if this works out but artistic enstrangement can be a good thing. Like in Pan’s labyrinth the girl interpreted the ongoing civil war as a fantasy setting.
    Or more on topic in Art Spiegelman’s Maus comic.

  14. Napalm Sushi says:

    Blackadder made First World War trench life into a sitcom.

    Some historical tragedies are so patently absurd that absurdism is one of the most apt artistic lenses through which to deal with them.

    • Blad the impaler says:

      Agreed, provided the absurdist isn’t reaching for humour. It’s a fine line.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      “Who would have noticed another madman round here?”

  15. cardboardcity says:

    It’s a bad idea most likely to offend a lot of people. And not “offend” as in “that makes me feel uncomfortable.” The Poles treated Jews terribly after the war too, as Ian Buruma notes in “Year Zero: A History of 1945.” The few Polish Jews who survived found that Poles had taken their property, and of course, the synagogues were destroyed.

    “Greed, prejudice, and a guilty conscience might help us understand the most perverse form of revenge in 1945, the persecution of Jews in Poland. The ancient Jewish community in Poland was almost annihilated. Three million Polish Jews were murdered during the Nazi occupation, either shot or gassed, mostly on Polish territory. Ten percent managed to survive, hidden by Polish Gentiles, or living in exile in far-flung parts of the Soviet Union. The physically and mentally wounded survivors who came staggering back to their hometowns and villages, after having lost all or most of their friends and relatives, usually found that they were no longer welcome. Worse than that: they were often threatened and driven out of town. Other people had moved in to their houses. The synagogues were destroyed. What possessions they might have left behind had long ago been stolen by others, frequently former neighbors. And it was a rare person who was willing to give anything back.

    “This happened in other parts of Europe as well. Quite a number of Jews returning home to Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris found that they had no home left there, either. But in Poland, especially outside the main cities, Jews were in physical danger. There were cases of families being pulled off trains, robbed of all their possessions, and killed on the spot. More than a thousand Jews were murdered in Poland between the summers of 1945 and 1946. Even in the cities, they were not always safe.”

    It’s not impossible that the subject couldn’t be treated in interactive software, but this game isn’t it, judging by the description.

    • Neutrino says:

      Surely “after the war” there wasn’t a Poland as it was part of the Soviet Union no? So shouldn’t the fate of returning Jews should be laid at the door of the Russians rather than the Poles?

      • Bernardo says:

        Poland was a sovereign coutry after the war, and although the socialist state was largely put in place by the Soviet Union, it was still a Polish state, a Polish party, and Poles living in the state. In 1947, Poles in Kielce started a pogrom against Jewish survivors, because of a rumour they had killed a gentile child for use in matzos. There’s no excuse for that.

        It might also be relevant to know that Poles are the biggest category in Yad Vashem’s “Just among the nations” lists. Though relative to size, the Netherlands is more impressive.

        • Neutrino says:

          After the war the legitimate Polish government was in exile in London, the Russians installed a puppet government followed up by a rigged referendum in 1946 which was used as the pretext for incorporating Poland into the Soviet Union, technically as a satellite state, but in reality it was annexation.

          The NKVD and Soviet military enforced Moscow’s Communist Party post war rule over Poland opposed by thousands of Polish independence fighters. Ascribing the treatment of the Jews in Poland during that time to the Poles as if they were a free and independent nation state is ridiculous.

          • Grovester says:

            But it was a referendum! Will of the People! Democracy in action!

        • Grovester says:

          The “Polish government in exile” and the returning Polish armed forces, who had served superbly as part of the Allies, were sent off to the Gulag by the Soviets. Or just put in prison. Or executed.

          Not really a sovereign nation.

    • Grovester says:

      You can’t just post statements like yours without some context of what happened in Poland during WW2.

      Under both the Nazi and Soviet occupations, civil society was utterly destroyed. Anyone who could have posed any kind of threat was either executed or sent to a concentration camp/gulag. Teachers, policemen, civic leaders, priests, managers – anyone who had standing in their community, gone. Anyone who helped Jews to survive was executed along with their family.

      What remained was the people who kept their heads down, didn’t speak up, didn’t offer any form of resistance. Then when the war was over they saw their chance to grab what they could, and anyone who stood in their way was attacked. That wasn’t only Jews but also other members of the community who returned from prison camps only to find their house taken.

      It’s a great example of how a formerly tolerant and civilised society can get ripped to shreds once violent arseholes take over and kill anyone who gets in their way. There will always be people who will take advantage. Tarring “Poles” with that brush isn’t really acceptable, given the number who lost their lives protecting Jews in their homes, fighting alongside them in the forests as partisans, and helping them escape.

      • cardboardcity says:

        I’m not blaming anyone per se. I just look at it as a force of nature. Clearly though antisemitism was widespread in Europe and was more intense in some places than others. There are reasons for that, but antisemitism reaches way back before World War II. Poles-as-victims doesn’t explain it all either.

  16. InfamousPotato says:

    I really appreciate your writing.