EA accidentally gave a Battlefield 5 Nazi the same name as a real WW2 anti-fascist

Turning a war against fascism that occurred within living memory and resulted in the deaths of more than 70 million people into a mass-market entertainment product is inevitably going to be an undertaking fraught with risk. It's easier in single-player games—Nazis are bad and you do interesting things to them with hatchets—but how do you handle a multiplayer experience where one side has to portray literal Nazis? It's a situation that can bite you in the ass in all sorts of unexpected ways. 

Case in point, a recently-revealed Battlefield 5 Elite character named Wilhelm Franke. He is very Nazi as portrayed in his promo trailer, kind of like a cross between Hans Landa and the Red Skull, although he studiously avoids wearing a swastika because that would be awkward. But what's really awkward for EA, as noted by Vice, is that Wilhelm Franke is the name of an actual member of the anti-fascist resistance in Germany before and during the Second World War. He was arrested at least twice for his activities, according to Wikipedia (Google translated), before he and his family were killed in the Dresden firebombings. 

"We’ve become aware that one of the names of our Elites, Wilhelm Franke, shares the name of a real life resistance member in Germany during the Second World War," Electronic Arts said in a statement. "We want to apologize as we certainly didn’t mean any disrespect to him. We are in the process now of changing the name of our Elite in the game." 

But EA also insisted that Franke, despite being a high-ranking officer in the Nazi war machine who stops all the action around him so he can watch an enemy soldier die slowly, is not actually a Nazi at all, but just a regular ol' German soldier, like all the other regular, totally non-Nazi German soldiers in the game. "In Battlefield 5, we're not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game," it said. 

That's an astonishing thing to say. Obviously there were plenty of "regular guy" German soldiers who fought in the war but this isn't Karl from Platoon B who got conscripted when things went sideways in Italy that we're talking about. The soon-to-be-former Wilhelm Franke is very clearly portrayed in the video as a stereotypical, through-and-through Nazi villain—cold, haughty, murderous, impeccably dressed by Hugo Boss—and leaving the swastika off his sleeve doesn't change that. You can debate the merits of using Nazis as videogame villains (and this is a perfect example of why, if you're going to do it, you need to do your homework first), but pretending that they're not actually Nazis at all is ridiculous and, frankly, embarrassing. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.