Thomas Rogers: German War Guilt: The MiniseriesRoundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
tags: World War II, Germany, TV reviews, Thomas Rogers
Thomas Rogers is a writer living in Berlin.
One hour into "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" ("Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter"), the hit new German miniseries about World War II, a group of German soldiers is trapped in front of a Russian minefield. Among them are two of the series' protagonists, Friedhelm and Wilhelm, brothers from Berlin with strong jaws and very precise haircuts. Friedhelm is a bookish, sympathetic Berliner who has thus far been reluctant to kill anyone while his heroic older brother, Wilhelm, is the group's admired leader. But now they face a problem: How to get themselves to the Russian line?
Unexpectedly, Friedhelm has a suggestion: force some Russian farmers, whom they've recently detained, to walk in front of them. A few minutes later, the first Russian hits a mine, setting off an explosion of mud and blood. Friedhelm stares on, unmoved.
The scene stands out for a couple reasons—not just for its high production values (a rarity in Germany, whose TV offerings tend to be low-budget) but for its frank depiction of wartime atrocity. The minefield scene is, in fact, just one of many horrific acts the two brothers perpetrate over the course of the miniseries, a sweeping television event that has galvanized a new discussion about Germany's war guilt. One of the most ambitious projects in German television history, "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" was ten years in the making and cost an extraordinary (by German standards) 14 million Euros to produce....