Wilhelm Franke, besides being a generic-sounding German name, was a real-life resistance fighter in Dresden during World War 2. Franke held antifascist meetings in the cigar store he owned, spoke openly about defying Nazism, and was a serious enough distraction that he was arrested by the Gestapo and died in February 1945. Unfortunately, Electronic Arts created an “elite” German avatar for Battlefield V with the same name. As shown in the image above, he’s the Hugo Boss uniformed gent with the Luger and the Phantom of the Opera mask shooting people in a church. The cosmetic skin having the same moniker as an anti-Nazi agitator is likely a coincidence. While Franke has a street named after him in Dresden, he’s not a well-known figure outside of Germany. Still, people noticed and informed EA that maybe they should pick a different name for their made-up villain.
Here’s where things go sideways thanks to how modern marketing messaging interacts with sensitive topics like Nazis. EA agreed that the name of the skin needs to be changed, but they denied their theatrical villain is a Nazi. In a statement to Vice, EA emphasized the character’s non-Nazi status. In fact, they doubled down and called out how not political their WW2 game is overall.
“The aforementioned Elite, Wilhelm Franke, whose name we’re changing is not a Nazi, but a German solider similar to ones we already have in the game. In Battlefield V, we’re not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game.”
To claim your WW2 game is apolitical takes some brass. To further hold up a lack of swastikas as evidence of that neutrality is some hardcore public relations doublespeak.