“The war” is mentioned almost daily in the German media at the moment. The reason is a new €15m TV drama, Our Mothers, Our Fathers, which gives a shockingly realistic account of five 20-something Germans before, during and at the end of the conflict in 1945.
The series was broadcast at prime time for three nights this week. It attracted more than seven million viewers and glowing critical acclaim.
The ordeals suffered by the protagonists are dreadful: two brothers enlist in the German army. Wide-eyed they are dispatched to the eastern front where they are confronted with the reality of SS men who shoot Jewish children at point-blank range and receive orders to assassinate prisoners on capture.
One returns traumatised for life. The other commits suicide. Their well-meaning girl friend serves as a front-line nurse and ends up being raped by Red Army soldiers.
German TV viewers have been fed on countless documentaries about the Second World War. But Edgar Reitz’s famous 1980s Heimat drama series was the first to give post-war generation German and British TV audiences a real inkling of what the war must have felt like for many Germans. Our Mothers, Our Fathers could do the same.
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