More than seven million Germans and 53,000 Austrians tuned in last Sunday evening when the public-service German television broadcaster ZDF aired the first part of the World War II miniseries Unsere Muetter, Unsere Vaeter (Our Mothers, Our Fathers). It is Germany’s decade late response to HBO’s war time series, Band of Brothers. In many ways this is a watershed event in German television history. For the first time, a television series deals with the experiences of average German youth during the war close up, à la reality TV, apolitical and focused on individuals rather than the bigger political and military picture of Germany in the 1940s.
Above all else, the series is an appeal to German and Austrian society as a whole to reach out to the silent and slowly withering generation of men and women who lived through the biggest carnage in Central Europe’s recent history. By the end of this decade, there will few living witnesses who experienced the zeitgeist and horror of Nazi Germany.