An unfinished game, under development by a Ukrainian game studio caused wide controversy and outrage in Poland. The game is set in Auschwitz and originally had players take the role of SS Guards or inmates in a Nazi death camp.
Putting aside why anybody would even develop a game as tasteless as this, “Cost of Freedom” attempts to look into issues such as how uncontrolled power pushing humans to evil and how big a cost one would pay to survive. That is the purpose of the game according to Alien Games’ Dmitry Dybin, who according to speculation is also the only member of the studio.
The RT reported that “Players may choose the role of prisoners in the death camp trying to escape or take revenge on their tormentors, or the guards who apparently can do whatever they want with the inmates.”
The concept of the game didn’t initially lead to the outrage. The game’s first promotional video was edited by a YouTube user by the name of Pierro Cocco. The video included the original gameplay footage and a soundtrack highly offensive to Poles. The words “Polish Death Camps” are illegal in Poland, since it blames the Polish people for the crimes of Nazis, thus the story exploded.
The hysteria began in Polish media and then Polish politicians also followed suit in expressing their outrage.
Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance demanded criminal investigation into the game, which Polish prosecutors duly launched. The developers were targeted online by Poles calling the Ukrainian studio Nazi sympathizers and worse.
It would also not be a proper incident involving Ukraine or Poland, without Russia being mentioned. Thus, there was even a theory that Dmitry Dybin is an alleged “Russian agent-provocateur,” with the mission to launch a dispute between Ukraine and Poland by using a game he never even intended on finishing.
Dybin denied those accusations and simply said that he had an idea that “would simply work in a death camp setting.”
The game studio also tried to remove all references to Auschwitz, including the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” [Work sets you free]. However, it did not work. In a desperate attempt to salvage their game, the studio changed the entire setting. “Cost of Freedom” currently takes place in Antarctica and provides no details whatsoever regarding the characters in it and their political views or heritage. All of the videos were removed, with the exception of the video including the offensive song, which prompted the outrage.
Poland has as of recently taken a stance that reflects its disagreement with Ukraine.
On February 1st, 2018, the Polish Senate passed the draft law on the Institute of National Remembrance of Poland, which, among other things, provides for punishment for denying the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists (supporters of the so-called “Bandera ideology”).
Specifically, the law criminalized the denial of the massacre of Poles and Jews in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, and also outlawed support for the actions and ideology of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which were responsible for the killings.
In this regard, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed concern, saying that Poland was trying to portray Ukrainians as “criminal nationalists.”
The bill also banned any claims that the Polish people or Polish state were responsible or complicit in the Nazis’ crimes, crimes against humanity or war crimes, thus, it bill criminalizes allegations of the Polish nation’s complicity in the Holocaust.
The punishment for the actions banned by the law includes prison sentences and fines.
“The crimes include the actions committed by Ukrainian nationalists in 1925-1950, involving the use of force, terror or other forms of violation of human rights against … the people, in particular, the people of Poland,” the legislation read.
The Ukrainian Parliament condemned the law and accused Poland of distorting the concept of Ukrainian nationalism. A group of Ukrainian nationalists organized a demonstration in front of the Polish Embassy in Kiev.
They carried Ukrainian Insurgent Army flags and banners saying, “Bandera Will Come and Will Put Things Right!”
Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk said that the 1,200,000 Ukrainians living in Poland were the fifth Ukrainian front. “They are now in Poland and they will take up arms if needed.”
The tensions between Ukraine and Poland seem to be superficial, however flare ups can happen, such is the case with this controversial video game.