Germany : Facing Its Nazi Past Is Still Troubling For Many


I was recently introduced to a TV mini-series I hadn't seen before, surprising as it was quite controversial at the time.

"Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" (Our Mothers, Our Fathers) was created and broadcast by ZDF TV in Germany in 2013, and the politics that it addresses are relevant to now just as much as it was to the early days of WWII. It is a three-part drama ; "Eine Andere Zeit" (A Different Time); "Ein Anderer Krieg" (A Different War) ; "Ein Anderes Land" (A Different Country).

It focuses on the story of five childhood friends aged around 20, brought up in the Nazi era, subject to nothing but propaganda and rhetoric, preparing to go to war in 1941. The narrative spans four years, starting when the friends meet up for a last time before embarking on their journeys, vowing to meet up again the following Christmas. The story's conclusion is set shortly after the end of the war in 1945.


It displays so clearly how an impressionable youth, fed nothing but Goebbel's output, can be convinced that evil is right, truth is false, and lies are real. How close, again, we are to this; the rise of European Neo-Nazism, Trump, QAnon, and Brexit.

In support of the series, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that ...
... the series would give the remaining survivors of the World War II generation an opportunity to discuss it with their families. 
But many considered that the series had introduced the next phase in historical films on the Nazi era.

The problem is, this next phase is disturbing : the series perpetuates the 'new truth' of the Germans being the victims.

Holocaust ? Didn't happen. War Crimes? That was mainly the Russians. AntiSemitism ? That was the Poles. Resistance to Nazism ? There was none.
The series depicts how totalitarianism corrupts almost everything in its path - including individual responsibility for actions. It says that young men and women were seduced and then savagely betrayed — brutalized by what the Nazis and the war itself put them through. Their complicity, in this account, is forced, never chosen.
- David Dency, New Yorker.

The historian Ulrich Herbert wrote that the series showed Nazis as "others", different from "Our Mothers and Fathers". It showed all Germans as victims.  

The series has been widely condemned for inaccurate and near racist scenes painting the few Polish characters in the series as being the most anti-Semitic. This includes members of the Armia Krajowa (AK) or Home Army, a force allied and fighting against Germany. The Poles are shown as even more anti-Semitic than the Germans. Furthermore, they are presented as convinced ideological anti-Semites, whereas the German characters are portrayed mostly as not ideological.

Poland's newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza wrote that the movie was the newest of a genre of German poor-quality historical films seeking sympathy for Nazi Germany ...
Their recipe tastes like a western movie, but in the background waves a flag with a swastika.
The Polish ambassador to the US, Ryszard Schnepf, sent a written complaint to Music Box, who had bought the US rights to the series. Plans to broadcast the series in the UK led to a demonstration by Polish activists in London.

For a series about World War II in which the troublesome question of how six million Jews were murdered has been simply blanked out ... it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The underlying message is : "These are our our Mothers, our Fathers, and it wasn't their fault, really."

The whitewashing of WWII has begun in earnest, and the current generation will think nothing of following in the footsteps of Greta, Charly, Freidhelm, Victor and Wilhelm.