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TV series accused of re-writing history

The Local · 29 Mar 2013, 11:09

Published: 29 Mar 2013 11:09 GMT+01:00

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The €14 million ($18 million) production "Our Mothers, Our Fathers," shown in three parts on public broadcaster ZDF, tells the story of five Germans in a story spanning the Nazis' declaration of war on the Soviet Union in 1941 to their ultimate defeat in 1945.

Two are sent as fighters and another as a nurse to the eastern front while two others including a Jew destined for deportation by the Nazis initially remain in Berlin.

"The war will reveal what is worst in us," Friedhelm, one of the soldiers, predicts.

In their Wehrmacht uniforms, the young men quickly become witnesses to SS atrocities committed in the occupied territories and eventually become implicated themselves.

One of the men is seen summarily executing a Russian POW on his superiors' orders. The drama owes a debt to the US series "Band of Brothers" in its storytelling. But it portrays the era through the eyes of a German generation of perpetrators for the edification and entertainment of children and grandchildren, many of whom are still in the dark about what their elders did during the war.

More than 7.2 million Germans watched the first two parts of the prime-time programme, with 8.7 million tuning in for the finale -- on a par with the ratings for the country's favourite weekly crime show "Tatort."

ZDF said it aimed to show the war in a new light in order to "foster dialogue between the generations."

"If we can bridge this void of silence that exists in many families on the subject of World War II, then this film is a television event in the truest sense," the broadcaster's entertainment programming director, Heike Hempel, told the daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

The show, however, touched a nerve in neighbouring Poland, with Warsaw's ambassador to Berlin, Jerzy Marganski, writing to ZDF this week to complain that his country's resistance fighters and average citizens were portrayed as rabid anti- Semites "hardly distinguishable from the German Nazis."

"The almost grotesque way in which the series presents the Home Army can create the impression that the guilt for the extermination of the Jews can be shared, that it must also be borne by other peoples," he wrote.

"Such an understanding of the history of the 20th century would certainly not be helpful to the German-Polish historical dialogue."

ZDF promptly expressed "deep regret" that the series had caused offence in Poland but dismissed the accusation that it was distorting history.

"In no way was the aim to relativise the historical facts or the Germans' responsibility," ZDF spokesman Peter Hill said.

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Experts gave the miniseries mixed reviews. Martin Lücke of Berlin's Free University said that the often melodramatic scenes carried the risk of viewers "identifying with the characters and looking for excuses for their crimes in the context."

Political scientist Johannes Tuchel, who heads the German Resistance Memorial Centre, told Berlin's daily Morgenpost it was "in principle always a good thing to show that the Second World War was a war of aggression launched by the Germans."

But he said it was too soon to tell whether the film would launch a real debate in Germany along the lines of the groundbreaking 1978 miniseries "Holocaust" starring Meryl Streep and James Woods which opened many Germans' eyes for the first time to the enormity of the Nazis' crimes.


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Your comments about this article

12:22 March 29, 2013 by Englishted
Schäuble: Cypriot anger at Germany will pass.

Just change the country and you will see the attitude in Germany.
13:57 March 29, 2013 by antistar
"The almost grotesque way in which the series presents the Home Army can create the impression that the guilt for the extermination of the Jews c…
Does he really think that those countries whose people murdered Jews across Europe during the Holocaust should feel no guilt or responsibility for their actions? No wonder anti-Semitism is still so strong in many countries.
15:01 March 29, 2013 by chicagolive
Not to down play what the Germans did, but their were many Poles, French, and other invaded countries that their people turned in Jews and other "unwanteds" knowing what will happen to them. Just as their were Germans who did as much as possible to protect the "unwanteds" that they knew. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go against such a machine as the Nazi one.
17:59 March 29, 2013 by Bulldawg82
@ Chicagolive . . . Yep. Anti-Semitism isn't confined to one nation. It is (and has been) in Europe way before the Nazis. People like to beat Germans over the head with it, but ALL of Europe is guilty of it.
19:45 March 29, 2013 by vonSchwerin
I'm going to guess that Ambassador Jerzy Marganski doesn't like the book _Neighbors_ by Prof. Jan Gross.

Let's face it: the Germans started the war and responsible for it. But when it came to the extermination of Jews, they had lots of help from Poles, Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks, French, etc. Not all of them, of course. But Poles, Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks, and French can't claim that their compatriots were only innocent victims. During World War II, you could be a victim and a perpetrator at the same time.
20:25 March 29, 2013 by michael4096
"Anti-Semitism isn't confined to one nation ... ALL of Europe is guilty of it."

Not just Europe and not just "semitism". People everywhere are eager to blame some other identifiable group for whatever their ills are on that day. It's human nature. But it really only starts being a major problem when populist leaders decide to further their own aims by fueling the hatred. As anti-muslim sentiment around Europe peters out from a lack of fuel, we are seeing a rise in the anti-immigrant (stealing our social payments etc.) Very useful to politicians wanting to implement unnecessary policies for ideological reasons and needing someone to blame. Germany, Holland, France are all at it. And Britain - well, just read the last weeks' newspapers.
23:37 March 29, 2013 by Bayreuth
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
00:21 March 30, 2013 by Hendrich Stein
Well we aren't known internationally for being the most truthful people on the planet while creating 50 million deaths. It is now that we have an opportunity to rectify our image to encompass compassion but that too is not happening. Are we destined to lose yet again? Why did we steal and kill again, Oh yes, it was for money. We applaud prosperity by the masses back then as much as today is the sad fact.
02:09 March 30, 2013 by Eric1
Why do we see the horrors of the Nazis but not the Communist? The answer, Communism is still alive, hinden in Socialistic societies. Communism has killed and/or destroyed more lives than all the wars in human history.
02:46 March 30, 2013 by savethedustbunnies
Eric1, I've often wondered this myself.

Why are certain countries forever reminded of the sins of their fathers and forefathers?

Why are some countries exempt, almost as it their atrocities never happened?
03:40 March 30, 2013 by RainerL
I think it is a good thing to have made a Movie Series on World war 2. Hell! Americans do it all the time. Germans do not complain if some of it here and there is twisted to make the Yanks look like Men in shing Armor. At least in the german Movie series they stuck to the facts as know even if it means implicating some elements of Poland to share some guilt even if not directly. If one seeks the truth then lets have All the truth and not just what is convinient to other Countries that even today still share some involvement by harbouring many Holocaust Criminals in various Countries. yes! This includes the Great U.S of A
10:38 March 30, 2013 by Bayreuth
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
10:46 March 30, 2013 by Bier_me

Yeah right, all those "American movies that display them like Men in shining armor". Are you serious? Lets see...Saving Private Ryan showed US soldiers killing surrendering German POWs. Band of Brothers had scenes of executing German POWs. The Thin Red Line had scenes where US soldiers ripped out gold teeth from still alive Japanese soldiers. Other than older movies from the 50s-70's about war, most US movies are fairly accurate when it comes to atrocities. I don't agree with your assessment at all.

The fact is, Germany lost the war, and because of this they will always be the victim of criticism. This is why you never hear about the millions of Jews and prisoners that were executed by the Russians. This is why you don't hear about only 5,000 survivors out of hundreds of thousands of POWs coming home to Germany after the battle of Stalingrad. Such is the nature of history. Few remember the losers, the victors dictate history. Right or wrong, thats how it is.

I do applaud Germany for making a series like this to help educate the youth about what their ancestors did in the war. I found that most Germans aged 20-35 have a great knowledge of the Holocaust, but lack knowledge of general WWII history.
13:10 March 30, 2013 by Bayreuth
German youth have had a few basic things drummed into their heads re. Hitler/Third Reich/Jews/Holocaust, all of which are half-truths at best. The victors do dictate the history.
13:29 March 30, 2013 by guliver

Before the 2 ww lived in Europe 16.6 millions Jews this number was actual till 1939.

In 1945 were left in Europe 11 millions Jews.

The German murded 6 millions Jews in KZ among them the entire families of both my parents,this was the national goal of history,the trains continued to delivere the innocent victims to Auschwizim ,children,babies,women,men even it was allready known that Germany lost the war in Russia, the German generals asked Hitler to rush munition food and fresh forces to east but the answer of the SS was that killing the Jews is the priotity.

How they killed them? by closing them in Ghetto's without food and in bad sanitary conditions, by shooting them in the forests .by murdering them in gas trucks, and to end in order to be able to kill 3000people a day. In gas chamber in Birkneu Auschwizim AND IN OTHER KZ camps most of them in east Europe but also in Germany-Dachau,Italy,Bergen Belsen ,Treblinka ecc.

The truth about the Jews murder is one ,not half and not quarter.

But you are right that besides the Jews were murdered other people Poles,20 millions of Russians and other in all Europe.
13:53 March 30, 2013 by Bayreuth
Jewish population worldwide in 1939 was roughly 16 million. To say that 16 million Jews lived in Europe is preposterous and demostrably false.

"the national goal of history" what does that mean
14:21 March 30, 2013 by guliver

First you are right and I was wrong-16.6 millions wre world wide Jews before the 2 ww.

nowthe right numbers :

In all Europe before the war 9,800,000 Jews



Germany499,00+3,177in Saar territory.




Chech republic=356,000




0ther European states=small communities generally less then 100,000

After the war 1945:


The number of the Jews registrated by the different states'internal ministries is well documented,also after the war the red croce and the jewish agency count the number of the Jews left in each European country,the number of 6 million is an estimated number which can be between 5.5 to 6.6 millions has the
14:51 March 30, 2013 by Englishted

I don't think G.B. was guilty of anti-Semitism in the 1930's ,the fascists did try to march in working class /Jewish areas in London and were met with the same resolve the Germans of today show when nazis try to march here.


Look out there is a red under your bed.
16:18 March 30, 2013 by owlguard
I am sick and tired of generational guilt. Hitler was a bad dude. Hitler advanced people that thought like he did, more bad dudes. Hitler killed anyone who opposed him. Which is the reason he was a bad dude. Germany was opposed by the burdens placed on them after WWI. Seems other countries were lookin for pay back. The cycle of financial oppession was ended when the US rebuilt Germany and Japan after WWII. Closure should have occured when east and west Germany were finally united.
23:56 April 6, 2013 by yuri_nahl
Bring out a miniseries about the British starving people to death in the Boer War in the first concentration camps. Or the Americans killing off thousands of Native Americans. Or the British sea blockade of Germany after WW I, or the Allies starving of Germany after WW II. These educational entertainments are always depicting the Germans as the only savages. What about Iraq? Or Libya, or soon Syria. Sorry, I forgot Afghanistan.
09:43 April 13, 2013 by Redfeather
Germany should quit punishing themselves over WWII. It happened, and its over. The Ashkenazi have done equal or more atrocities as the Germans. I had stumbled on American Prison Camps last week that included pictures. They did to the Germans terrible crimes. The pictures were horrid. I would believe that it was due to so many Ashkenazi in America promoting their hate. I had noted that in the Bible Danites were missing and knew they were one of the two tribes of Jacob that were in Germany. Danites were never Ashkenazi Jews. I believe that genocide was done to the Danites because of WWII.
19:30 April 16, 2013 by Maurice45
Polish media and officials, such as Jerzy Marganski, claim that the scene in the German miniseries, where Polish underground fighters show hostility toward Jews, was insulting Poland because such 'thing' never happened. To me it rather seems that Poland never had a 'coming to terms' with of its own prewar history, since it is historically proven that Poland had a remarkable anti-Semitic past before the Nazis conquered Poland.

Therefore it's very likely that freewheeling AK units as those pictured in the television film showed such attitude given Poland¦#39;s excessive 'official' anti-Semitic legislation before the war. The legacy of the war has helped many forget that prewar Poland shared one very ugly similarity to Nazi Germany: An Anti-Semitism, which was officially legislated through specific "żydowskie prawo":

• In August 1936, the Polish government ordered that shops mark specifically Jewish-owned businesses. Attacks on Jewish businesses surged after the marking order went into effect.

• From May 1937 onward the Polish Medical Association adopted a paragraph into their professional charter excluding Jews from the medical profession, similar to the "rassen-gesetze" in Germany, where in 1937 the Nazis forbade Jewish doctors to treat non-Jews.

• Also in May 1937, the Polish Bar Association adopted a similar measure. This was followed by official state action in May 1938 restricting the ability of Jewish lawyers to attain licenses to practice law, very similar to Nazi Germany in 1938, where the Nazis revoked the licenses of Jewish lawyers to practice law.

• In January 1938, the Polish General Assembly of Journalists added a provision to its by-laws stating that anyone Jewish could not belong to their organization.

• In April 1938, the Bank Polski, the Polish state's largest financial institution, adopted a provision excluding Jews.

• Most importantly, in March 1938 the elected Polish government announced a new "Citizenship Law." This law stated that as of October 30, 1938, the passports of Polish citizens who had lived abroad would be revoked, if those citizens had not "maintained contact with the country".

Although this law did not mention Jews specifically, its effect was aimed against Jews who had lived outside of Poland, especially against Polish Jewish expatriates that numbered tens of thousands in neighboring Germany. The Polish action effectively rendered these people "stateless" on German soil, making them a German problem.

On October 28-29, the SS and Gestapo detained 15,000 Polish Jews and sent them over the German frontier into Poland. The Poles refused to allow Jewish citizens to enter Poland, and they concentrated the unwelcomed Jewish subjects in camps in the vicinity of the Polish city Zbaszyn.

There the detained Polish Jews languished under terrible conditions until the Polish government finally relented and allowed their Jewish subjects to reenter Poland in 1939.
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