Generation War (TV Mini-Series 2013) Poster

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Moving on from the Comic Book Nazi Villain
rothsvenoliver28 January 2014
I have watched the series several times now, and I still find it pretty engrossing. It was made by German filmmakers for a German audience, ostensibly to nudge the fast passing away generation of eyewitnesses and veterans and the generations of their children and grandchildren to use the last chance time will give them to break the wall of silence and talk about their wartime experiences. The series has a whole lot on it's platter, arguably more than enough to cover in a meaningful way in 4.5 hours: the enthusiasm of youngsters for Hitler's war; the obvious persecution of Jews and the developing genocide in the East; the nature of the Nazi regime, the unprecedented savagery of the war, the commissar order, taking casualties from partisan ambushes, savage counter insurgency warfare, the dehumanization of the populations of the conquered territories at the hands of the Germans, plans of colonization and ethnic cleansing, battle trauma, the disillusionment of the soldiers, what it was like to fight a losing total war, denunciation, finally the savagery of the soviet troops. In the end, everything is in ruins, countless are dead and the survivors emerge as deeply scarred personalities, each of them having to live with personal guilt and the ghosts of the past.

Granted, the numerous chance encounters of the lead characters may be unlikely but they are an acceptable plot device. What can't be seriously disputed is that the mini-series takes great pains to put the audience in the shoes of the five young Berliners on their journey through the madness of total ideological war. The dominant question looming in the background is not so much the well known question, asked in the comfortable situation of a stable post-war order „How could you be such a criminal tool of Hitler's genocidal war?" but rather „Damn, what would I have done in their position and where do I take the smug conviction from that I would have done so much better?". The overall approach is not a conversation stopper between the generations but an outstretched hand, not a tone of indictment and condemnation but one of empathy.

I came across two major groups of audiences who got all worked-up and downright mad about the show: German internet-Nazis and patriotic Poles. The former were foaming at the mouth about just another installment of guilt-worship and defilement of the supposedly heroic and noble German soldier of WWII (and the millions of German civilians who got killed, raped and expelled from their homelands). The latter were upset that a German show about WWII in the east doesn't center on the suffering of Poles at the hands of Germans and even portrays Polish civilians and partisans as ardent antisemites.

Both camps, even the internet Nazis, have some points, I believe. When Friedhelm says in the first part that the Russians „are learning from us" about atrocities, it's a fair objection to point out that Stalin's mass-murdering terror regime in fact didn't need any lessons from the German invaders about committing atrocities, be it politically motivated mass-murder, genocide by famine, ethnic cleansing, etc. At the time the film starts, Stalin and his countless henchmen still had much more blood on their hands than the Nazis and their helpers – which was going to change, however… For a good account on this, read Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands).

By the way, a legal fact which is apparently too unpopular nowadays to be mentioned ever is that customary international law at the time of WWII allowed quite far-reaching reprisal actions of occupying forces when attacked by irregular forces. Even the US Army field manual of 1937 deals in detail with the accepted practice of hostage shooting and the burning of villages as reprisals… Collective punishment had been commonplace in the soviet union since the revolution, and the British applied collective punishment in their colonial rearguard fights even throughout the 1950s. (Sadly, that list is far from complete: That doesn't undo German atrocities but it's not helpful either to view those completely out of historical context.

Polish criticims, as mirrored in several reviews here, centers on the fact that the show depicts the war against the Soviet Union and therefore leaves the Polish campaign of '39 and the subsequent German occupation of Poland largely out of the picture. What makes countless Poles then totally snap is the double dip of being once again portrayed as antisemites (remember the bitter reactions in Poland to a brief scene in Spielberg's Schindler's List or to the favorable reception in the US of books by the Polish-born author Jan Gross) and then, of all people, by Germans. While I believe that the subject of antisemitism among Poles could have been portrayed in a more balanced fashion, especially by blaming someone else than the AK who evidently helped Jews and even supplied weapons for the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, I think it's time people in Poland start to accept that todays's Germans have a right as anyone else on the planet to include Polish antisemitism in their renderings of history. As for brave Polish resistance to the Nazis not having gotten more screen time, it's the decision of the makers of the show what their story focuses on. I was also disappointed when AMC's Hell on Wheels reduced Plains Indians to mere plot devices but I guess that I just have to live with it that Hell on Wheels is about people building a transcontinental railway and not about the plight of the ethnically cleansed Indians. Same applies here.

Summing up, if you have seen enough comic-book Nazi villains on screen and are curious about the German experience in WWII, this mini-series is a pretty well-made, honest and quite engrossing attempt.
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Brilliant, though somewhat flawed
yiapap6 November 2013
Let me begin by stating that my grandfather (a civilian) was executed by the German occupation forces so I know quite a few things about Nazi atrocities. Let me also add that I understand all the negative reviews given by Poles.

That being said... This was a piece a brilliant viewing! I think that it captures the essence of what war can do to people's souls. I do not agree that Germans were portrayed in a positive or neutral light as there were quite a few characters who were corrupt and evil from the beginning. In addition, the tone of the film is depressing from the start even during the time when Nazi Germany was jubilant. I especially liked Friedhelm's character and how he turns from a pacifist to a soulless murderer, only to rediscover his humane side as the end of the war came near and eventually act on this rediscovery at the very end.

As many reviewers pointed out and I can't disagree, the main flaw is the portraying of almost all Poles (except one girl) as antisemitic to put it mildly. Apart from that it does show at least three in a positive light. One of them, the leader of an AK resistance cell stands out as honorable, almost heroic, even if he is flawed. But so are the German characters, and the Russians. So what? This is the true human nature after all!

Technically, the film is also brilliant. I consider the comparison to Band of Brothers (even though they are VERY different in context) to be a great compliment given the fact that this series had a fraction of BoB's budget.

The performances of the main characters ranged from excellent (Tom Schilling) to acceptable. What really strikes me is that nobody has mentioned the second line of characters who were stunning and gave the series much needed depth.

All in all, this is not a documentary about WW2 or the Holocaust. It is not a hero-based mega-budget production like Band Of Brothers. It is however a good story, remarkably well filmed, about five specific Germans during the climax and end of WWII. Watch it as such and I'm certain you will enjoy it!
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Excellent WW2 series from a German perspective
janhein8119 March 2013
We follow the experiences of five young adult friends from Berlin during the second world war (WW2). To a certain extent this series can be seen as the German counterpart of Band of Brothers: parts of the series are about the combat of the German Wehrmacht (two of the five friends are Wehrmacht soldiers while one of them is a battlefield nurse). We are given a raw picture of how the German Wehrmacht operated, including the slaughter and sometimes humiliation of its enemies. The story is about German civilians as well: one of the friends tries to avoid the deportation of her Jewish boyfriend by seducing a German officer.

Overall, the story does not provide an excuse for the way that the Germans acted in WW2 ("Wir haben es nicht gewusst"). On the contrary: it points out that not only the Nazi's but also the Wehrmacht (the 'ordinary' army) was involved in the killing of Jews and other civilians. The story is about evilness as well as about the struggle of German soldiers with their conscience while following orders. Doing so the series seem to provide a genuine picture of what really happened.

The story is set at a very good pace and the different plots unwind nicely. But what really distinguishes this series from most other WW2 series is the quality of the footage and the excellent acting. You feel the fear of a German soldier who steps on a mine; you understand that the efforts of a soldier to prevent executions are deemed to fail.

Nothing short of excellent!
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Outstanding Television
osceola2226 January 2014
Being fed the usual US blockbuster TV series makes the viewer numb. Mindless rubbish that is sold to us as a"'Television Event 'is nothing more than marketing hype. But every now and then a quality television film comes along. Generation War is a bright light in an otherwise production line of poor offerings that seem to rate on commercial TV. This film was brilliant in so many ways. From the skillful direction and intriguing storyline to masterful character development, from magnificent set recreations to convincing performances from its actors, this film is a winner.

Having an interest in WWII history I would agree that some albeit minor inconsistencies in the retelling of history may be identified. But given that it is entertainment mixed with history it does an outstanding job of closely matching the attitudes and people of the time. Its easy for us to sit back in the 21st Century judging the people and attitudes of those living in a deceitful, cruel and secretive fascist state that was Nazi Germany. But times were different and all people that live through any war (whether good or bad) are in some way adversely affected by it. Generation War showed another side to the WWII story which shows no one is a winner. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this offering from German TV.
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Deeply moving
ChrisWasser25 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I cannot remember another German mini-series since "Das Boot" that was as extensively discussed as this one - not only publicly in the media (TV talk shows, newspaper articles and internet blogs and forums) but also privately (within the families, between the generations). Whether you like "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" or not, you cannot deny that Nico Hofmann (the producer) was successful with his expressed intention to initiate such a discussion.

Of course, it was not the first time that the question "Dad/Grandpa, what did you do in the war?" has been asked in Germany; in the past this question has been triggered for example by the rearmament discussion in 1955, by the student movement in 1968, by the American TV-series "Holocaust" in 1979 or by the Wehrmacht exhibition in 1995. The difference is that on these occasions the (grand-)children of the Nazi generation rigorously DEMANDED that their (grand-)parents break their silence and confess their collective and individual participation in the atrocities of the 3rd Reich. By contrast, "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" invites the last remaining men and women of this generation to get ALL their wartime memories off their chests - not only the crimes they may have committed but also the traumata and suffering they experienced.

In my opinion the three-part series gives a great and relatively balanced depiction what the war on the Eastern Front probably was like. This is achieved by great acting (Tom Schilling is brilliant, but all the other actors are also very, very good) and excellent production values. In spite of the low budget (14 million Euros; very high for German TV but pretty low in comparison to "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers") the combat scenes look quite realistic and the set design, costumes and makeup look very authentic. A big step forward for Teamworx compared to their previous TV productions with WWII themes ("Dresden", "Die Flucht", "Nicht alle waren Mörder" - not too bad itself - or "Rommel").

For international viewers it might be of interest what kind of criticism was brought forward against "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" in the aforementioned discussions in Germany. In typical German fashion I will try to orderly ;-) list SOME of these arguments in ascending order from not-to-be-taken-seriously to pretty valid and sound. I will also give my personal opinion on these arguments.

1) The criticism from military nerds and uniform fetishists "In 1941 the MG 42 machine gun was not yet in use, in the fight for the telegraph station the Russians use a German Panzerfaust, etc." My 2 cents: Seriously, who cares? Apart from these nerds no one even notices these mistakes.

2) Some strange mistakes in the timeline and/or geography "When Friedhelm is sent to get provisions from behind the main front line in episode 1 he reappears BETWEEN the German and Russian lines. Nobody can get THIS lost!". Or: "When Wilhelm goes AWOL after the Kursk battle he is caught by German military police quite some time later. At this time the front line had already moved >100 km to the west, so that the MPs would have been operating far behind enemy lines!" My 2 cents: IMHO this really seems to be lazy writing.

3) Chance encounters "There are far too many chance encounters of the five protagonists in the course of the war. Realistically they would have met again - if at all - only after the capitulation and captivity (and Wilhelm and Friedhelm would not have been in the same unit in the first place)." My 2 cents: Of course, this is a valid argument, but you have to remember that each of the five main characters stands exemplarily for the war-time experiences of a whole lot of Germans. Therefore I can ignore the improbability of the coincidences and accept them as necessary dramaturgical devices (except for the reappearance of Lilja, which is still very unrealistic).

4) Authenticity of the characters "The five main characters are too modern/not in their time. In reality they would have been a product of a very authoritarian upbringing: uptight, guarded and much less outspoken." My 2 cents: That's probably true but it's a common mistake. Most American period movies have the same difficulties at creating characters who are truly a product of their time.

5) Scope of the story "The mini-series does not show what the five friends did before 1941, how they grew up (in the HJ/BDM) and how their views evolved after 1933. It also does not show what happens after 1945 and how they lived on with their conscience." My 2 cents: As a writer only you decide where you want to start your story and where you want it to end. A prequel or a sequel would be possible but it would be a different film with a different focus. The purpose of "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" was to explain why many (most) of the perpetrators (and also the victims) of the Nazi regime could not talk about their experiences even with their families for years/decades (sometimes until their death).

6) Fair balance of the story "The suffering of the Germans is overemphasized while the suffering of the Jews, Russians, Ukrainians and Poles is belittled. The fate of the Russian POWs (2 million starved/died of epidemics in German captivity) for example is completely left out. The antisemitism within the Polish resistance and the atrocities of the Russian soldiers are exaggerated and completely blown out of proportion." My 2 cents: This is such a difficult subject that I won't even try to discuss it here. But I will say that I find it commendable that the mini-series never mixes up cause and effect and never questions the responsibility of Nazi-Germany for the Holocaust and for its war crimes during WWII.

See this mini-series, it's worth it!
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Unfair Reviews
samuel_hyden19 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I'd like to start this review with saying that I really adore this mini series and that I enjoyed almost every aspect of it. I loved the original and intriguing cinematography, the excellent acting and the genius of the dramaturgically consequent writing. In fact, I watched all three episodes without pausing and I was under its spell completely during all of it. But I couldn't quite let it go after I finished it so I started looking up facts and curiosities about it online and I eventually ended up here, at IMDb. I started reading through the various reviews and was filled with disgust, disappointment and vicious anger by most of them.

I read review after review of small minded garbage and finally I couldn't help myself and started writing this review. It seems like many of you have completely missed the point of this show. Many of you seem to think the agenda of it is to somehow sugar coat or deny the many war crimes committed by the Nazis during their various campaigns in Europe. To think this is not only ridiculous and bizarre, it shows just how brainwashed and unintelligent you are. Most of your reviews consist of complaining about how the series does not show some of the atrocities they performed like during the holocaust or the invasion of Poland when, in fact, this has nothing to do with the show.

Do you really think the German makers of "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" do not know the Germans had concentration camps during WWII? Do you really believe they are not aware of the crimes against humanity they committed in countries all over Europe? Of course they do, how could they not when they're reminded of it in about 99% of all works of art that has anything to do with this war. Those things have already been brought to the attention of the world in thousands of movies, TV-shows and books so why bring it up yet again? The makers of this show were a bit more original than that so they decided to tell a story about the people behind the Third Reich, the persons, not the demons and monsters that they're usually portrayed as.

And to those of you how say Germans were showed as nice, lovable and tolerant people in this show, watch it again. There are numerous scenes in which German soldiers behave like cold killing machines as they murder innocent civilians and in an early scene a German officer shoots a little Jewish girl in the head. But maybe you couldn't see that through your tears.

Also, there was nothing said about the heinous rape of Berlin in the last episode, committed by communist troops during which girls as young as seven years old were raped repeatedly, some as many as 60 to 70 times. One and a half million German women were raped savagely and yet I see no one crying about that not being shown in the series. History really is written by the victor...

Those of you who refuse to believe that Germans during the '30s and '40s were actually human beings are just racist and narrow minded. If you're scared of this original and diverse approach of a WWII story I suggest you go watch Schindler's List.
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Glad to see a German perspective
jeff-allen9 May 2014
I watched this flying to & from LA and had to see it again properly. The series is set very differently than US or British shows and it speaks volumes to the producers & writers even if it offended the Polish (its not a documentary its drama). Many American & British WWII shows are factually incorrect.

To the show the five characters are well portrayed and acted and I liked the pace of the show and that it didn't duck certain issues like the killing of Jewish women & children by the Nazis or the brutality of the Eastern front. It showed how war changes people into something they were not before and how desperate you can become or fatigued. In the end it shows that regardless of nationality their is good & bad in all societies and the power of politicians and senior armed forces personnel over the rest of us and what they can make any of us do is frightening.
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Brilliant anti-war film
jzpresto5 January 2014
I'll leave it to Germans, Jews and historians to vouch for the accuracy of this film. As a work of dramatic entertainment, however, I can attest to its brilliance of construction and visual realization. Following the lives of five principal characters in the confusion of war is no easy task, yet the makers have succeeded in keeping their stories clear while producing exciting variety for us viewers. I saw this film at a festival after sitting through two duds. Generation War came as a riveting, exciting and thoroughly professional achievement. The writing, acting, cinematography are all first-rate, and kudos, too, to the musical score, including the terrific song, "Mein kleines Herz". In detailing the lives of five people during World War II on the eastern front, Generation War ultimately exposes the brutality and futility of war. Because its protagonists plunge into it with the greatest of hopes, the process of how those hopes are dashed is what makes Generation War such a fascinating film.
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open to a female audience, entertaining, historically accurate - not representative
nodialogue25 December 2013
What characterizes the German perspective of this mini-series? The Wehrmacht's invasion into the Soviet Union defines Germany's memory of WW2. This campaign lasted the longest 1941-1945, covered the largest front-line, involved the most soldiers, it is where the Wehrmacht suffered 90% of its 2 million dead, it is where Germany was defeated.

Realistic or not? As a former German conscript soldier born 1968 I recognize the depiction of military behavior, group dynamics and everyday-life of soldiers in a German context. However, I would expect more vulgar language. Other than that, I lack authority to judge.

The question whether or not this series is authentic is twofold ? First, is it true to history? The Wehrmacht's invasion into Eastern Europe and Russia accounts for the majority of deaths by war or genocide in the European theater of WW2. Regardless of modern technology, this war was still predominantly fought by the common infantry man and suffered by civilians. The series reflects these facts. But it never establishes the Wehrmacht as the efficient and dangerous fighting force it was, even during defeat.

Second, is the narrative authentic ? The series illustrates the recollection of my grandfather's generation and their perspective as I heard it from them. In that sense, some undertones are both apologetic and authentic to that generation's testimony. As an ambition, the series aggregates many personal memories into one narrative.

The visual impact of the combat scenes feels intense. The stain of a period drama, costumes and uniforms, disappears into the spectator's excitement easily after 5 minutes. Cutting into black-and-white newsreel footage feels smooth and provides perspectives a film on a budget small compared against the actual event cannot. The staged shots create an illusion of conquering a large landmass and moving in foreign territory.

The dramatization follows the generation born in the 1920s: one German Jew, two soldiers and two women. The story reunites the five in fabricated coincidences. Does this overstretch the artistic license? No, for it serves to re-examine the change both of the individual characters and their relations to each other as a result of violent experiences. More frequently observed is the changing relationship of two brothers, different in character, different in response to shared hardship.

The series explores the nature of what in modern terms would be called war-2.0 . Traditional war was but a means to an end that, at least in principle, could be achieved otherwise. War-2.0 kills for the sake of killing. In this series you'll see the Wehrmacht routinely executing civilians with the SS or alone. War-2.0 applies traditional warfare to the goal of genocide.

The series remains silent about the motives. It shies away from showing the deep racism, antisemitism, the cool institutionalized execution of genocide. When Friedhelm yells at his brother "there is no purpose, no sense (Es gibt keinen Sinn) " to express his desperation he is obviously blind to the genocidal intent of the campaign. The Nazi criminals appear as people of bad character to which their genocidal beliefs are but an accessory. Nowhere do we see a German as an educated , sympathetic individual, whose only flaw were his racism and antisemitism. The series only presents this type as a Polish partisan.

Entering the third part, one is sucked into an ever closer marriage of survival and killing but gets trapped by Nazi patterns of thinking. The Nazis created the myth of the German people fighting for survival facing the Eastern peoples in order to legitimate the genocide, preplanned from day one. The film implicitly picks up that image of survival. Initially it were millions of men and women in Eastern Europe, millions of Jews who fought for survival - not the Wehrmacht. While the series appears apologetic on some subjects it completely refrains from accusing the Red Army.

What about guilt? The soldiers portrayed in their early twenties were not the generation who planned the genocide, nor did they cheer Hitler into office. The swift and easy Wehrmacht victories in Western Europe motivated German soldiers, the series reveals. The story leaves the spectator with the crucial question: what, given the circumstances, could one have done differently at the age of 23 ? The series suggests that the line of guilt separates the generations rather than the good from the bad combat soldiers. It is the older generation who abused the young generation as the instrument of war. The series offers an iconic scene to justify my interpretation. It shows a German soldier in an act of self-sacrifice and redemption (I shall not disclose the details here).

I cannot grant redemption. The act benefits only German soldiers but none of their victims. De- humanization and cruelty out of racism characterize WW2. Uncompromising loyalty to one's own ethnic group sits at the core of extreme racism. It is this exact loyalty the film upholds in part 3.

I recommend the series. "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter / Generation War" entertains. Using 3x1.5hours, the vast scale of WW2, the nature of the violence and the depth of personal experience come alive. It opens the subject of WW2 to a female audience who can identify with the rich female characters. Poles, Ukrainians, Russians will find the German perspective accessible for it correctly places the horror of WW2 in their home-countries. The series provides substance to a serious debate by being historically accurate, though not representative.
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Excellent series that shows the German side
vdpjurgen21 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I found this series very interesting for multiple reasons. First of all it's very refreshing and interesting to see the German side of the war. Most of the movies depict the American or the allied side. That it only took part at the eastern front isn't illogical because 85% of the German soldiers died at that front and not in the west or the south (Italy and Africa). It also shows that antisemitism was widespread in Europe and not something that only existed in Germany and that a lot of eastern-European peoples assisted the Germans (in many ways off course, being in the SS is the worst of many possible ways to collaborate).

What a lot of Poles (who act like they've been stung by a bee) don't seem to get is that these series is NOT about Poles. It's about how average Germans underwent the war, why they did what they did and most of them (those who survived at least) didn't talk about it for decades. Yes, it shows that there were antisemitic partisans, but that's a fact that also polish historians don't deny. Nobody claims that all Polish partisans/Poles were antisemitic or that they build the concentration camps.

In my opinion the series was very well made, from a unique point of view, the uniforms and locations were very good and accurate despite some minor flaws (MG42 in 1941?) and all of the actors did a really good job. Especially the role of Friedhelm and the evolution his character went through was superbly done. Although it's a German production, it avoids no topics. We see German protagonists shooting prisoners of war, shooting and hanging innocent civilians (even children), burning houses, hunting people through a minefield,.. It's idiotic to say they 'whitewash' history. What IS shown is, that under given circumstances, ordinary people do terrible, terrible things. People and life are not black-white. What would you have done?
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Simply amazing
JackC_3225 May 2013
The most significant thing for me about World War 2 is that it was an extraordinarily huge moment in human history, it's still in living memory and bitter rivalries have yet to die. That being said, the dust may finally be settling and it's now time to look upon the Second World war much like any other period of history with an unbiased and impartial view that does not emphasize nor downplay the atrocities or achievements of either party involved. This is how we look at every period of history and it seems we can finally begin to look at the Second World War the same way.

This TV series is visually stunning, it aims for historical accuracy while still having decent amounts of action and excitement. It doesn't feel so much like the war propaganda from the earlier post-war years or even more recent films like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers where the Germans are depicted as evil Jew hating monsters with no compassion. Those films themselves were not bad, but "unbiased" is not a word that could ever be used to describe them.

Another wonderful aspect of this series is simply that it's taken from the German perspective, with German actors speaking German instead of American or British actors with some speaking with German accents and some not. It adds to the overall look and feel of the series. It also doesn't constantly have sad violins playing to black and White images of the holocaust. as if to say that anyone living in the West has not heard about the holocaust at least once every single day of their lives. Band of Brothers for example has an entire episode dedicated to just the holocaust.

Overall this series is deeply engaging and a breath of fresh air, you're not constantly beaten over the head with reminders that Hitler and the Nazis were cartoon super-villains and the holocaust was the single most important event in human history, completely overshadowing mush less significant events like the Holodomor, the Soviet massacres and the Communist Chinese massacres to name a few. It also gives a rare glimpse into the German side of the story, remember what I said about being impartial?

For similar films I would recommend Das Boot, Cross of Iron and Stalingrad.
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excellent TV mini series
gorbr79119 January 2014
Just watched on SBS TV Australia and a very high quality and entertaining war perspective from Germans of WW2......I see it is on at movies in USA and at 4.5 hours too long for movies...but loved it on TV.....war is a no win for all sides so don't try and analyze the political ,racial or historical accuracy.Its not meant to be a documentary.....but you must feel empathy for all people that went through the horror of WW2...our worlds biggest disgrace with 50 million father was an Australian soldier for 6 years in WW2..and he was disgusted by the treatment of soldiers on both sides....well done German TV.
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What WWII was for the ordinary German
siderite24 March 2014
Like a mirror image of Der Untergang, the film depicts the lives of ordinary German people during the same period and shown with the same brutal honesty. It should also be based on real life events, since at the end they show how much each of the protagonists lived.

The plot revolves around five friends, in their late teens and early twenties, happily partying before some of them are sent to the front for the war that "would end by Christmas". There are two brothers, sons of an asshole father who loves just one of them. The unloved one naturally is an intellectual and an artist, while the other is the pride of his father. Then there are two girls, one wishing to become a star like Marlene Dietrich and another preparing to go to the front as a nurse to help the fatherland. Also in their group of friends is the boyfriend of the wannabe starlet, who is also a Jew.

Now, they all start with expectations, the first being that the war will be swift and won by Germany. Other such expectations reduce the rate of violence related deaths in a war, make Germans leave nice Jews alone, applaud the loving and caring nature of humans everywhere and . The war changes all of those in a gruesome three parter film that lasts for almost five hours. Years later, when the war is actually over, they meet at the café where they optimistically planned to party that first Christmas, their souls and lives in tatters.

The story is complex, the script well done, the war effects and related scenes are realistic, the characters are human and change a lot through the film, the acting is exceptional. It is certainly at least one order of magnitude better than most American war movies, perhaps because the sense of hopelessness given by a war lost (morally at least) way before it began gives everything an uncomfortably realistic grit. Any acts done in the name of god and country look and feel completely stupid and pointless, and are not sold as heroic drama moments. Good guys don't always make it and bad guys escape unpunished.

If you like war movies this is a good one and I submit that this film will appeal even to people who don't generally watch the genre - like myself. It also makes me want to watch more German films in the hope that they would be just as good.
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Excellent WWII drama
stowevt02420 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Generation War" is a 3 part dramatization of 5 young Germans friends and their experiences in World War II from 1941-1945 in German with English subtitles. Of the 5 there are three men and two women. Two of the men are German soldiers as well as brothers (one a lieutenant and the other a private) and the other male is a Jew whose family has a tailor shop. Of the two women one is on her way to being a nurse on the Russian Front while the other woman becomes a semi-famous singer. The acting was first rate and the scenery and battle sequences were fairly realistic (never being in a war I can only guess). The trials and tribulations that each one of them has to endure is the plot behind the series. I was fairly pleased that for once not all Germans were portrayed as fanatical Nazis. They are patriotic and feel, at the beginning, that the war in the Soviet Union is a just one. Slowly that patriotic fervor starts to fade away as the German advance is halted at the gates of Moscow, then the capitulation of Stalingrad as well as the failed attempt at Kursk. That is it in a nutshell and I do not want to give away too much of the story. I did find one thing very interesting; whenever the "Fuhrer" is named there is an "F" a blank space then, "hrer" the "u" is never there. All in all it is a great mini-series and well worth watching. I was somewhat taken aback by some of the reviews I had read online particularly from people in Poland who complained that there was not enough about the concentration camps, etc., etc. Some people will never be happy with the fact that World War II and all its atrocities took place and that failure to mention that 6 million Jews perished is reason enough to pan it. There are depictions of atrocities being carried out by German soldiers as well as one of the main characters (the Jewish tailor) being sent to one of the camps and his experience on the train there as well as innocent civilians being executed by German/Nazi soldiers. War is war. It is mankind at its worst. However, criticizing the series just because the major part of it did not depict all of the 6 million Jews getting gassed is not a good reason to not to see the series. Uri Avnery's (an Israelireview of "Their Mothers, Their Fathers" appeared 1 March 2014 in Avnery himself fled from Germany to Palestine in 1933. Concerning the film's not showing Nazi death camps, Avnery writes "The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality." He describes the progression of two of the protagonists: "Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course." He propounds a theory of the individual in totalitarian circumstances: "It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror." He sees the Jews of Israel and the Germans as two still traumatized peoples. "That's why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own."
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An absolute must see!
radiokonservativ22 June 2018
Finally a WW2 movie from a German perspective without depicting the Germans as brainless monsters. The story and motivations of the characters are very close to reality. Very captive and emotional. And of course a very lovely cast.
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Like the Wehrmacht - impressive in the beginning but ends up in shambles
ramayana26 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Many have compared Our Mothers Our Fathers to Band of Brothers but apart from set against WW2 the two features have nothing in common. This is definitely not the German counterpart to BoB. Contrary to the latter, the German series has not a single character I could like. The nurse is dumb, the singer a slut, the mandatory Jewish friend just always at the wrong moment and at the wrong place, and the character development of the two soldiers just... confusing. I mean, what to think of a cast where the (apparently also mandatory) evil SS-Whateverbannführer is the most memorable character? Apart from flawed character development it's bad screen writing ruining the series. The first part was promising and perfectly watchable but around the second more and more things happened which made me ask myself "wtf?" ***SPOILER*** For example, the transformation of the younger brother from weakling into die-hard soldier happens from one scene to the other, the Jewish doctor betrayed by the nurse and dragged away by the Gestapo suddenly appears as a highly decorated Russian officer (who, to add insult to injury, delivers a sickeningly didactic speech when saving the nurse from being raped - the makers probably didn't dare to show what usually happened in reality wherever the glorious Soviet army went), characters escaping from a moving train to Auschwitz (where else, of course...) sleep between the tracks until it gets conveniently bright enough to shoot the next scene. ***END OF SPOILERS*** These are just a few examples of flaws in the script which ultimately make the whole story unbelievable, even annoying at parts.

It appears to me the German makers didn't have the guts to show the real face of Nazism and war; about the former we don't learn anything new (for example why on earth is everyone except the protagonists an ardent Antisemite? why did everyone hate the Jews?), and from the latter, we only see grunts PTSD-d by events that are only mentioned, not explained. It's apparently still not a time to show the cruelty of the Soviet army and the partisans, which would have psychologically explained many of the protagonists actions and their slide into cruelty - as it happened in reality.

The series attempts to give a bitter look to the transition of Nazi Germany into the BRD too; without giving away more spoilers, I can only say that this was done much, much better in "The Life of the Others" where there's a very similar scene.

So, in the end what could have become an epic TV drama ended up as a didactic lecture on typical German self-chastising with a flawed script and unreal protagonists. Probably there were better chances to find an unopened bottle of brandy in a trashed Berlin pub after the siege than for Germans to make an honest and well-realized feature about WW2. Maybe in a hundred years. Until then, if you want to watch a truly good German film about WW2, go for Das Boot and forget this one.
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Emotionally Shattering
MikelMask16 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
--Spoiler Alert-- This is an incredible piece of work. This is a highly controversial film and many reviewers believe that it lets the ordinary German people off to easy for the crimes that were committed in their name. I do not agree. Starting in May 1941, these young people undergo a series of events that force them to make moral choices that in the end leave them compromised and complicit in the system that they are defending. Viewers watch them experience a spectrum of emotions beginning with triumphalism and optimism toward their bright futures due to The Third Reich's victories, to alienation, to fear, and ultimately to shock and oblivion.

Almost uniquely among war movies, this miniseries to try to allow viewers to imagine what it was like to be one of the five main characters who experienced World War II in Europe on the losing side. A viewer may not sympathize with the main characters but the film forces one to try understand what he/she would do under the same circumstances. It is a very unsettling and depressing since there are no easy answers. I highly recommend this film to everyone.
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A flawed approach to deflecting blame
MacacoBanditi3 February 2014
This movie is Germans trying to come to turns with their horrible horrible past. Mind you, every single collective of people in the world has skeletons in the closet, so kudos for them for at least trying. We are still waiting for the French to reflect on what they did in Haiti, the English in India, the Dutch in Indonesia and the Belgians in the Congo. And so on until every single nation is on the list.

What troubles me is that, to achieve its aims, Generation War throws historical accuracy overboard. Here are five friends in their early twenties (two girls, two brothers who are about to be mobilized to Russia and a Jew who is beginning to realize what's coming his way) in 1941 Berlin. The war has been raging for 2 years and the Final Solution is just around the corner. Over the next 4 years each one will go through an ordeal of their own. The take-home message is that all five of them are essentially moral and kindhearted youngsters who are forced circumstances to perform dubious acts, including downright crimes. The makers somehow insist on pretending that these were actual people who actually existed. The problem is that even if people like them did in fact exist, they are far, very far from being representative of a German in their early 20s living in 1941. None of them is a Nazi fanatic. None of them believes that Slavs are sub-humans, or that Jews are vermin contaminating the purity of the Aryan race. They more or less believe in the Final Victory, halfheartedly, but not with the psychotic fanaticism that had been instilled in most youngsters by that time. The plot could have easily shown this and pin it down on the 8 years of brain-washing conducted by the totalitarian Nazi state. If you read letters of German soldiers in the Russian front you will realize that an immense majority among them actually believed that Russians were simply not humans, it had been "proven" to them "scientifically" by the evil propaganda machinery of Goebbels and Rosenberg. And we are talking about cultured and sophisticated guys here. It was this mindset that allowed them to perpetrate the most horrendous atrocities remorselessly. "We were all behaving like zombies, brainwashed by a criminal gang that hijacked the country". That would have been a more historically accurate way of deflecting blame - if you want to call it that way.

This movie also takes the very cheap shot of putting Ukrainians and Poles on the same footing as the Wehrmacht when it comes to war crimes. Surely there is a long history of anti-semitism in Eastern Europe but all in all those countries took way more than they gave. They themselves were brutalized by Germans. That Ukrainians welcomed them as liberators but then reverted to siding with Stalin hints at what happened there. And Poland was barbarized by both Germans and Russians.

Another point of contention. The German treatment of Russian POWs and civilians is unparalleled in its ferocity, probably not since Genghis Khan had the world seen something like it. This issue is carefully dodged in the movie, but it ends up being like trying to hide an elephant in the closet. The couple of times when Russian POWs are depicted they are either idly sitting by or being tended by a German nurse. Again, this is forcing statistics to the breaking point. Perhaps there were a couple of instances where such things happened, but it is so uncommon, so unusual, that it can be squarely considered a total misrepresentation.

Basically that is the approach taken by the script writers here: take the most unusual, exceptional people and facts and lead the viewer to believe that this was the norm. It is a shame and a pity they decided to go that way.

I still give it a thumbs up and recommend viewing for good cinematography, gripping war scenes and overall careful mis-en-scene. Performances are OK without being exceptional. Hopefully there will be more German film-makers willing to pick up where this movie left and set the record straight.
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I feel dirty after having watched it
antcol829 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Where is my gift of exegesis? Gone, gone, swept away by my outrage. 4 1/2 hours of my life lost...

The new apologias - they are so clever. Everyone knows you can't say "I was only following orders" anymore. That's become a hoary cliché. So what to do? Study subliminal use of proportions - that does the trick. Show horrible atrocities, and give the feeling you're being unflinching. But at the same time, "balance it out" with equal or greater atrocities from other sides that actually take up more screen time. Hey, it was War, y'know? It was bad...real bad. German soldiers - they were so torn. They loved their country - is that so wrong? If they had Jewish friends, they killed their superior officers to save them. I know a movie is a movie, but is there ANY record of such a thing happening? A big radio star is put to death for fraternization...I know a movie is a movie, but is there ANY record of such a thing happening? She's executed - the only Jew who is an actual character lives! From what I've read (and I've read a lot), Aryan stars who did such things were threatened - that's all.

Was für einen Schund!

PS - people who hate this review. Go ahead, hate it. It's certainly not my best. But check yourselves and ask what is bubbling under the surface of your assumed liberalism. The most pernicious aspect of this series is that it presents the whole period as though it was some kind of bad dream. And it pays lip service to the Holocaust as though (and this we KNOW not to be true) it was just perpetrated by the smallest group of MOST fanatical monsters. Hey, keep that WirtschaftWunder dream alive, homeboys!
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War made soapy
pawebster7 May 2014
It's well made and acted and there are some dramatic battle sequences, that even top Band of Brothers in giving a believable sense of combat in the Second World War.

However, it's corny. The "five friends" (Die fünf Freunde) are put together so as to tick boxes (1. upright 2. sensitive 3. naive 4. frivolous 5. Jewish) and the box-ticking continues in many parts of the production. (It's ironical that Die fünf Freunde is the name of Enid Blyton's Famous Five in the German translations of her children's books.)

I say "soapy", because there are so many ridiculous coincidences in the story - everyone is close together, despite the vastness of the territory, and keeps meeting up.

On a minor note: why does the Jewish guy spend the early sequences going around in Berlin dressed virtually as a Rabbi (and with anachronistic designer stubble)? Was he trying to attract the attention of the authorities?

Others have noted much more serious historical faults, and I won't go into those here.

They spent a lot of money on this and it apparently went through many re-writes. Couldn't they have done better?
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Lazy writing contrived plot
fomka503 December 2013
I have just watched the final episode of the mini series (shown in Ireland with English subtitles). To be honest, I understand why some reviewers are angry at the depiction of the AK's anti-semitism. There is no doubt that anti-semitism was prevalent throughout Europe (and still is to some extent), lets not forget that local support was essential in the Europe wide round up of the Jewish population. This was certainly true in central and eastern Europe. However, the scene where the AK partisans cruelly left a consignment of holocaust victims locked in a train was simply an unnecessary and offensive exaggeration.

The AK leader is a poorly and lazily drawn caricature, and this is my problem with the series as a whole; the writing is simply awful. The plot depends on a series of most unlikely chance meetings on what was a crowded, chaotic and fast moving front. The story develops with coincidence following coincidence, in an almost childish manner. It was truly farcical and detracted from the intent to depict events in gritty realism (ala Band of Brothers).

As regards representing the historical context, I think it was fair enough (with the obvious exception of the AK extreme anti-semitism). The German people in general supported the war (not just Nazis). The war in the east was most brutal and barbaric with no regard for the Geneva Convention.. The Wehrmacht were guilty of war crimes (not just Nazis, SS and Einsatzgruppen) . The Red Army also committed war crimes. Anti-semitism was widespread.

Pity about the writing.
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Rated 9.5 on Chinese forum by 2580 viewers
maggie-shang14 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
For most movies, the rates on Chinese movie forum are similar to that on IMDb. This one is different.

I read the reviews posted here, and I agree with some of them. I do think some plots are familiar, and the performances are OK but not very special. But I am still moved, by the miseries people suffered in WW2, and by the introspection of Germany.

I like the plot Wilhelm escaped from battle, lived in a log cabin. Honor, loyalty to the country and faith in triumph, which used to support him collapsed. He took off his uniform, shaved, cooked fish, and enjoyed the peaceful life after killing, almost being killed and being betrayed and abandoned by their own troops. I hoped he would never been found.

270 minutes cannot cover everything, it does not tell the whole history of WW2. The TV series focuses on people, mainly the ordinary German people who were manipulated by their government. The five characters were kind young German people. Of course not all German people were like them. But the kindness is always most hurt in the war, that's the tragedy.

For those viewers who doubted the factuality of the TV series, I recommend the documentary about it. The producer did visit many senior people who experienced the War and most plots were written by true stories. When you see the tears in the old eyes, hear the terrible stories they experienced, you find it very cruel to make them to recall the memories. But without their recalling and telling, without the recording and documenting, how nowadays people understand how Nazi hurt European, Russian and even German people. As a country that started the War, the introspection is valuable.

A public introspection is not easy in Asian culture. When we see such a TV series, complicated thoughts and feelings about our neighbor and ourselves come to us. Maybe that's why we are so easily touched by it.
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Disgrace and insult
noanemone20 June 2013
Yesterday the third episode of "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" was aired in my country. As a Pole, I feel disgusted, shocked, and most of all obliged to get some facts straight. If you already have bothered yourself to watch the series, please give me your next three minutes to let me explain some points, which are crucial to understand the film completely.

My first question after watching the whole piece was; what is the actual message? I have never doubted that there existed German soldiers who were never willing to join the army and start killing innocent people on the command of a psychopath, who instructed them to do so only because he believed in the superiority of the Aryan race above all the others. Yet, we cannot assume that the entire German society was that guiltless. Hitler was a maniac, but that didn't make him a villain. It was the hundreds and thousands of German people voting on him (being fully aware of his views), who raised him to power.

And what is shown in the series? Next to the obviously heartless "bad Germans" we see heroes, dying in battles, crying after their friends. Sure, all of the above took place during the II World War, but is it really the paramount aspect of its story?

Imagine now that your house is burned after your mother and father were brutally and pointlessly murdered. Is it really the dramatic tale of the murderer's inner experiences he struggled with, slaughtering your family, you want to hear now?

As I said, I don't deny that going to war against your will wasn't hard. But it should never, ever, ever be compared to the Polish stands presented in episodes 2 and 3. Poles used to help Jews and saved much more of them than any European country, despite the punishment here was the toughest - finding a Jew in your house wasn't equivalent to loosing your job like in e.g. France, but with immediate death by firing squad. Not only yours, but your whole family's.

In the series, we are pictured only as a cunning, horrid nation, selling Jews to the Nazis whenever the occasion appears. I don't say that there were no Poles that betrayed them, but such accidents were as numerous as the Germans voting against Hitler. It's a disgrace, and I am fully excused to feel offended.

To sum it up, I would like all the viewers to realise what was tried to be persuaded to us by, de facto, ZDF - a public television channel. We are introduced to a pack of innocent, full of hope and plans for the future young Germans. They are pushed to war and suffer hard when are to kill a human being. Parallely, there are surly, boorish and cruel Poles, swinging their weapons at poor, innocent people's faces, literally hunting Jews. Even though both of the occurrences took place in the past, what matters is the proportion the series lacks.
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Interesting but flawed
malcolmgsw11 May 2014
After the conclusion of the final episode on BBC2 an interesting discussion took place between one of the producers and 3 academics ,one of whose parents were Holocaust survivors.the point was made that by 1941 adults of that age would have been so indoctrinated by the Nazis that a relationship with a Jew would be inconceivable.Also the idea of Viktor cycling around Berlin shouting "Shalom" to his friends was laughable.Jews were invisible in Berlin.The Polish Ambassador to the UK spoke of his country's anger at the representation of the Home Army as being anti semitic.The Russians were showing as barbarians apart from The Russian doctor.The Americans as being indifferent to the employment of a former Gestapo policeman.Now many of these may have a grain of truth but they were clearly overstated.The Germans were at times too well behaved.I found it to be interesting but flawed.
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As far as series go, the quality does not get higher
carl_Deconinck16 March 2014
Due to historical reasons (the Nazi's lost so they are the baddies, America are the goodies) and economical reasons (American and British productions get more money than German ones) our cultural approach of World War II has mostly been one sided. There are several good and excellent "allied" productions in all the genres, from comedy to drama. Yet, they are overwhelmingly in one perspective and tend to show the Germans as Disney-like villains. In the best case we see nuances that are often based on impressions and real-live events from veterans and the like.

The mere fact that we see the conflict from another perspective alone is reason enough to watch this series. But there is more, much much more. Even American or British series have lower budgets than most movies, so action isn't always what it should be. Band of brothers and the like are rare gems on that issue. Here, for a European series in a relatively small language-reservoir the action is very, very well done. Besides that, we have a fantastic view from several people with a diversity of opinions and features who get caught up in the waves of history. The character development is captivating and credible. We see how ordinary people with ordinary lives do what they do and we understand it, even when we don't agree. It's so very human. Instead of villains and thugs, we see how rhetoric, political realities and power relations mold people and peoples. Everything they do, everything we see, it's all very credible and realistic. If you want to see how people lived there and then, you definitely need to watch this

For the rest, on a technical point of view, it's all top notch: the acting, the screenplay, the directing, the sound, etc etc. This is a German classic that can stand next to the great movies Stalingrad and Das Boot. A real must see. By all standards.
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