Germany’s Controversial Mini-Series “Generation War’ Bags Emmy Award

 “Generation War”, a controversial mini-series from Germany, bagged the top prize in the TV movie/mini-series category during the International Emmys held last Monday, November 24, in New York.

The controversial mini-series, a three-part German production, went up against contenders from Great Britain, Japan and Brazil.

The WWII drama, its original title being “Unsere Mutter, Unsere Vater” which translates to “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”, centers on five friends and their lives during the Second World War. In spite of the debates the controversial mini-series inspired due to how it interpreted Germany’s dark Nazi past, it has won a number of accolades throughout the world with the procuring of the International Emmy in the TV movie/mini-series category being the latest.

The controversial mini-series, “Generation War”, first came out in Germany’s public television ZDF as well as in Austria sometime in March last year. More than seven million Germans tuned in to watch its premier episode. Furthermore, the production also went into broadcast internationally.

Generation War: Story

Main Cast of the Mini-Series "Generation War": [Left to Right] Ludwig Trepte as Viktor, Katharina Schüttler as Greta, Tom Schilling as Friedhelm, Volker Bruch as Wilhelm, and Miriam Stein as Charlotte.
Main Cast of the Mini-Series “Generation War”: [Left to Right] Ludwig Trepte as Viktor, Katharina Schüttler as Greta, Tom Schilling as Friedhelm, Volker Bruch as Wilhelm, and Miriam Stein as Charlotte.
The controversial mini-series focuses on five friends and the various paths they took throughout the war years — as  Wehrmacht soldiers assigned in the Eastern Front, as a war nurse, as an aspiring singer and even one portrayed as a Jewish tailor. Its story took the time span of five years starting in 1941 in Berlin and ending sometime after the end of WWII, in 1945-46 with the production probing on the struggles these five characters experienced throughout that time.

Though it earned praises for not just depicting the Wehrmacht, Germany’s armed forces during the Second World War, in a black-and-white picture as well as not simply placing the good and bad sides directly but creating complex characters who were neither perpetrators nor victims, the producers of the controversial mini-series also received backlash for their work.

For one, Many Polish were angered at how “Generation War” portrayed Polish antisemitism. What’s more, Polish media accused it for falsifying history — a sign, they said, leading to Germans being ignorant of their past.

American media also labeled the mini-series as “an appeal for forgiveness”, exemplifying an attempt by the Germans to normalize the dark part of German history.

But to lead actor Tom Schilling, the flak surrounding the controversial mini-series is actually doing it good. As he pointed out, the debates regarding its story line make it more interesting to the audience who, then, goes on to discuss and argue about the series’ every point.

He was, however, surprised that “Generation War” won the International Emmy in its category. He said its win led him to believe that German TV is not that horrid after all.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE