German TV drama confronts a nation’s wartime guilt

A television drama exploring the guilt of ordinary Germans during the Second World War has become a ratings sensation in Germany, reaching more than seven million viewers.

Our Mothers, Our Fathers follows the lives of five young men and women – two brothers who become Wehrmacht soldiers, a singer, a nurse and their Jewish friend.

The series draws on the experiences of the film-makers’ parents

The drama begins on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and shows how the young people are rapidly corrupted by the Third Reich. One of the soldiers executes a Russian prisoner, while the nurse betrays a Jewish patient to the SS. The Jewish man is shown escaping the Nazis to find shelter with Polish partisans.

The three-part series has been hailed by critics as a “turning point” inGerman television for examining the crimes of the Third Reich at an individual level. The screenplay of Our Mothers, Our Fathers draws on the experiences of the film-makers’ parents – the screenwriter Stefan Kolditz’s father was a 19-year-old soldier on the eastern front, while a scene in which a Jewish child is shot was based on an event witnessed by the producer Nico Hofmann’s father.

The final episode was watched by 7.6 million people

Reviewers have praised the drama for breaking new ground by showing how the Nazi system reached into every corner of life. Christian Buss, a culture editor for the magazine Spiegel wrote in a review of the drama that while the question of Germans’ collective guilt had been resolved, the role of individuals remained unclear.

“Who has had the conversation with their own parents and grandparents about the moral failings of their elders?” he wrote. “The history of the Third Reich has been examined down to the level of Hitler’s dog while our own family history is a deep dark crater.”

The final episode was watched by 7.6 million people.

Jeevan Vasagar, Berlin


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