Original title: Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (Our Mothers, Our Fathers). Debuted 2013.
As the US goes through its own reckoning with the Black Lives Matter movement, Generation War is about Germany’s own reckoning with its own racist past. Five friends, right before Operation Barbarossa, gather at bar in Berlin and vow to meet again before Christmas.
This made-for-TV series stars Volker Bruch, before his role in Babylon Berlin (yet another show exploring Germany’s sordid history). He serves as the narrator as events unfold. His character, Wilhelm Winter, is a Lieutenant in the German Wehrmacht who has watch out for his younger brother, Friedhelm) played by Tom Schilling who is more interested in literature than fighting the Russians.
The other three main characters include Charlotte (Miriam Stein)who signed on to be nurse on the Eastern Front, Greta (Katharina Schutter) who desires to be singer, and Viktor Goldstein (Ludwig Trepte)–a Jew who finds acceptance among his friends but soon realizes he must leave Germany. They are portrayed as protagonists caught up events beyond their control.
It’s an ambitious series: covering the events of the main characters from June 1941 to May 1945 in 4 hours and 30 minutes. In that time we witness the beginning and end of Operation Barbarossa, the Battle of Kursk, and the final collapse of the Third Reich.
Its almost too ambitious. It put a lot in and left a lot out and at times, lacked certain amount of focus. The characters don’t age, nor does the war wear upon their good-looks.
One result is secondary characters become almost like cardboard cut-outs with little depth, and even stereotyped. Viktor Goldstein, for example, ends up with the Polish Resistance who turn out to be as anti-Semitic as the Nazi. The real truth is far more nuanced.
Another result: because its expected though implausible, their paths cross throughout the series. When Greta performs on the Eastern front for the troops, guess who else is there in exact same place? Winter, Wilhelm, and Charlotte. Who would have thought?
We do not ever see a single concentration camp. We see Jewish prisoners aboard a train (including Viktor). One character mentions that the trains go to certain destinations full but come back empty.
Consider Generation War a primer about Germany’s role in World War II, told by the perspective of Germans, which encourages further inquiry. I enjoyed it, despite certain implausibilities.
Its worth watching once, though I may see it again for further examination.