Kiev – Trailers for a “grotesque” video game set in a Nazi concentration camp have caused outrage, with players taking the part of guards and choosing which inmates to send to the gas chambers.
The developer, Alien Games, hosted trailers for Cost of Freedom on YouTube, where they had more than 15,000 views over two months, raising further questions about the Google-owned site’s policing of antisemitic content.
The game developer took the videos down yesterday, saying in a statement that it was “forced” to halt production of the game after “misinformation” in the media. The creators previously said that it would be released in December on the Steam gaming platform.
A trailer for the Holocaust-themed game opens with emaciated prisoners in striped uniforms travelling in cattle trucks. They arrive at a concentration camp that appears to be modelled on Auschwitz II (Birkenau).
The trailer shows that players acting the part of SS guards can choose whether to send individual prisoners for “disinfection”. They can also decide to torment individual prisoners by forcing them to kneel, eat grass, pray or dig a hole. It shows some entering a gas chamber and stacks of burning bodies.
The video also depicts some of those held staging an armed rebellion, akin to the real-life revolt by hundreds of prisoners in October 1944, before showing captured prisoners lined up for execution by firing squad. “Choose whose side you’re on: brutal killers or prisoners,” the trailer says.
The game is being investigated by the district prosecutor’s office in Warsaw after a complaint by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said its inquiry related to the crime of “insulting the Polish nation and promoting a fascist regime”.
The Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita said promotional material for the game made repeated references to “Polish death camps”, a description for the German-run camps that Poles find deeply offensive.
The website of the company behind the game said it was located in Ukraine. Polish sources, however, said there were indicators that the trailers were made in Russia in order to create tensions between the two countries. Poland’s internal security agency recently accused Russia of using “hybrid warfare” techniques including the use of fake news.
The Times has previously reported on the availability of antisemitic content on YouTube, including videos perpetuating the “blood libel” that accuses Jewish people of murdering gentile children.
Dave Rich, of the Community Security Trust, said: “The idea of encouraging young gamers to adopt the persona of an SS guard committing genocide is utterly grotesque. The fact that it was promoted on YouTube for months is yet another indication that they have a long way to go in removing antisemitism from their platform.”