Generation War – A History Lesson?

As many of the Second World War vets have passed away and there are not so many left to tell the stories, as Germany is continuously heading for the top positions in Europe with increasing confidence and as hidden facts and information come to light from the archives of former Eastern bloc countries, now more than ever, it looks like Germany’s vision of war and past events has shifted.

‘Generation War’ is a mini-series, which was broadcast in Germany last year. Critics say the concept of the film was just an attempt to normalize Germany’s past and its role in the war. Like the original title says “Our Mothers, Our Fathers,” the Germans were normal people, like the rest of us, who deserve to be understood for their actions and for their mistakes and to be accepted by their grandchildren.

Although is seems fair enough at first glance, later on the film kind of slips from reality and from normality and hits a different zone, more nostalgic. It was well received by the public in Germany and understandably not so much in Poland, where the representation of anti-Nazi groups as disordered anti-Semites generated public rage and disapproval.

It was written by Stefan Kolditz and directed by Philipp Kadelbach and depicts the story of five ordinary young Germans in a half melodramatic, half combat action style. The film begins with the five youngsters drinking Champagne and smoking together and dancing on American Jazz, sometimes in 1941.

Wilhelm and Friedhelm are brothers and they are just about to go war.  Wilhelm  is in love with Charlotte who is to become a hospital nurse on the Eastern Front. Greta and Viktor live an illegal relationship, since Viktor is Jewish.

The characters are very well built, with contrasting personalities, very challenging and very diverse, but there is one more thing about them: none of them are Nazi sympathizers and none of them can see the terrible disaster approaching, The New York Times reports.

Wilhelm and Charlotte are the only ones who have some kind of patriotic feel encrypted in the characters, not necessarily because they want to embrace that exact ideology, but rather because that was the way the grew up and that was the way their parents viewed the society at the time.

They voluntarily accept their duty to protect their country but without actually knowing what that involves. It does take a while until they realize it is not just about being a hero but more about being a liar, a traitor and a murder.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE