Generation War does something very un-German – bottles it

This lauded new BBC2 drama can’t be trusted, writes James Delingpole

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

I was so looking forward to Generation War (BBC2, Saturday) — a three-part drama series covering the second world war from the perspective of five young men and women on the German side. Any nation capable of producing the ME-109, the 88mm gun and the Tiger tank, not to mention Das Boot, really ought to have no problem making one of the most authentic, searingly honest war dramas ever to hit our screens…

How wrong I was. Consider a scene from this week’s opening episode involving Friedhelm — bookish, bolshie, anti-war younger brother of the more pugnacious and efficient Leutnant Wilhelm Winter. There they are on the Eastern Front, in the depths of winter, and Friedhelm is on guard duty at night in a foxhole petulantly smoking a fag — in calculated defiance of a comrade’s plea to stub it out for fear of alerting the enemy.

Generation War - Our Mothers, Our Fathers

Now in the British army this would have been a serious offence but in the Wehrmacht — which executed an estimated 50,000 of its men during the war — quite possibly a capital one. Sure enough, a Russian aircraft spots the glow of Friedhelm’s cigarette and bombs the German position, perhaps — though it’s not clear — killing some of his comrades. Friedhelm gets off with an ad hoc punishment beating, tacitly endorsed by his brother. Seriously?

‘My problem is that I don’t know how far I can trust any of this,’ said the Fawn as we watched. Exactly. Generation War has done that very unGerman thing and bottled it: it has ducked frank and fearless authenticity in favour of face-saving, intellectually dishonest, politically correct melodrama that leaves its audience feeling frustrated, cheated and rudderless.

Even when it gets it right, it gets it wrong. Charlotte, who enlists as a nurse, takes on as her assistant Lilja, a very capable local Ukrainian ex-doctor who covers up for Charlotte’s mistakes. But their developing friendship is cut brutally short when Charlotte discovers Lilja is Jewish and that she may have been stealing morphine. She reports Lilja to the Gestapo — then regrets it when her betrayal is exposed.

Generation War - Our Mothers, Our Fathers

Historically, this is plausible: war, Hitler and Nazism made the civilised people who produced Goethe, Schiller and Schubert do some very uncivilised things. Problem is, Charlotte has been so poorly established as a character at this point, we’ve no way of gauging whether she has acted this way a) because she is capricious, cruel and weird or b) — more likely, but we’re never shown this — because she is a product of her era. Worse still, you rather suspect the whole incident may be just a strained plot device that sets up a hanging thread to be implausibly resolved in a later episode.

This kind of cheesy hackwork diminishes the whole exercise. If you’re going to take on a subject as big and harrowing as the Eastern Front, you owe it to history not to cheat or pull your punches. Sure, we see the Wehrmacht committing atrocities — using Russian civilians as human minesweepers; shooting captured NKVD commissars in the back of head; rounding up Jews. But all too often, it’s as if the sensitivities of the German viewer are being salved with glib let-outs — in the case of the prisoner shooting, for example, by showing how much Wilhelm loathes having to do it; and in the case of the five heroes by making one of them a nice Jewish chap whom they all like. (Openly. In 1941. Right.)

What’s missing, though, from the series is I think — to use a cliché — the banality of evil. Unlike some cantish critics, I don’t think it’s a problem that wartime Germans are shown in a sympathetic light, even to the point of being portrayed as victims. Rather, what I find objectionable are the weasily ruses the drama has adopted to justify this semi-apologia.

Surely the key point about being a German in the second world war was this: regardless of whether you were good or bad, rampantly philo-Semitic or violently Nazi, you were chewed up by Hitler’s machine all the same. It was acquiesce or die. Often, acquiesce and die. No German serving on the Eastern Front, for example, would have been allowed the moral freedoms with which the scriptwriter has indulged the character of Friedhelm: he’s a 21st-century German parachuted into a period where he wouldn’t have survived more than a few seconds.

The brave and true thing for Generation War to have said is that within every one of us — given the right circumstances — lies the capacity to behave as the Germans did in the second world war. Very few of us would have taken a principled, Stauffenberg-style stand because most people just don’t. But even now, 70 years after the war’s end, the Germans are still so mired in guilt and self-hatred that they can’t admit it. If you believe, as I do, that failing to understand your past condemns you to repeat it, this is not an encouraging sign.

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  • Maude Hickley

    The show in it’s entirety (3 parts James of which you have seen the first act so to speak – look up 3 act structure it may help your writing improve) is a great piece of television drama, written in collaboration with EXPERTS (check the credits) to ensure historical accuracy. As usual a poorly written review from Delingpole, absent of understanding and little in the way of facts (Schubert was Austrian James, not German), but since Delingpole has made a career out of ignoring facts it is to be expected. Please consider a career as a traffic warden.

    • A Traffic Warden

      I think the EXPERTS you refer to had an agenda, and that is to present the five young people as essentially likeable modern-day time travellers who happen to find themselves in 1940s Europe. Also, if my memory serves me, Adolf himself was Austrian, which didn’t seem to stop him thinking of himself as a German.

      • Michal Karski

        PS – isn’t your comment a shade traffic wardenist?

        • Michal Karski

          PPS – Altogether an insightful review, although I would part company with JD in his last paragraph. The Germans I’ve met have been liberal, tolerant and hardly ‘mired in guilt and self-hatred’. They are generally doing well in coming to terms with their history (to say nothing of the fact that their democracy has been in many ways the envy of Europe). This film, however, even if well-intentioned, is too full of holes and raises too many questions (in my opinion) for it to rank alongside the many others about the war which Germany has produced.

          • AtMyDeskToday

            Yes, the article as a critique of the program makes a few good, dramatic points but then ends in two sentences which are just outright rank rubbish. How low can the DT sink before it competes with the Sun on jingoism.

          • MikeF

            “would the Beeb have aired this series if the enemy the Germans were shown to be fighting had been the Brits instead of the Russians” – No they would probably have said the British soldiers weren’t ‘diverse’ enough.

          • Peter Bering

            Lol. Is Britain really worth defending at all anymore?

          • Peter Bering

            No way it would have fit the permanent propaganda mode of the UK. But good that it was set in the East. That is where almost the whole war actually happened. Normandy was way after the war had been decided.

      • Scott Moore

        “I think the EXPERTS you refer to had an agenda, and that…” You don’t seem to understand how TV series are made. The experts, presumably historians, consulted for this series are extremely unlikely to have had such an agenda. Their agenda would, most probably, have been to try to promote historical accuracy. But, in all likelihood, much or even most of their information and views were ignored by the program makers. You see, it is the program makers who may well have an agenda that places historical accuracy far down their list of priorities. It is very rare that TV fiction prioritises historical accuracy – that’s just the nature of the beast.

        • Michal Karski

          Only just noticed your comment. And now it’s your turn to be confusing me. Are you contradicting yourself here by saying that historical accuracy was sacrificed for a gripping yarn? In that case, Maude was absolutely right that the programme was written in collaboration with experts, but, unfortunately, the experts were totally ignored.

          And now the time has come, the walrus said…

          • Scott Moore

            I can see why my post might have been confusing – I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Generation War before I’ve seen the whole series. Let me clarify, that I was writing about how TV historical drama is normally made. I simply don’t know whether or not this was the case for Generation War. It is possible that the makers of the series did listen to their “experts” – after all, we don’t know what view these “experts” hold. I’ve put the word experts in quotation marks because the term is meaningless if we don’t know what they were experts in. They might have been experts in 1940s fashion and the programme might be extremely authentic in its costumes. Supposing that these experts were historians. Well, history is not merely a group of facts against which accuracy can be measured. History is a representation or model that, in the modern discipline, is based on extensive research to gather information. That is why the term “historical authenticity” is more appropriate here – we are comparing a representation in fiction to a representation in non-fiction.

            Neither is history monolithic. As in any partly subjective discipline, there are a variety of views (expert and otherwise) on any given issue. It is entirely possible that the “experts” consulted by the programme makers did not agree with each other.

            To conclude, I very much doubt that all the views of any historians consulted were taken on board by the programme makers. But I’m almost sure that they were not “totally ignored”. At the end of the day, it is fictional drama – designed primarily to entertain. Historical authenticity is there primarily to serve the purpose of dramatic plausibility.

          • Michal Karski

            Hi Scott – I was going to post a lengthy essay answering your comments point by point, but I have to admit I’m having a bit of trouble following your arguments. Either your position is shifting or I can’t keep up with your chain of thoughts.

            My take on Germany in general, is that just as the Beeb is not representative of all Brits, so ZDF is not representative of all Germans. I lived in Germany for a while, and the people I met were liberal, tolerant and, contrary to stereotype, had a great sense of humour. It is understandable that this generation want to know how their “Mothers and Fathers” (actually it would be more like ‘grandmothers and grandfathers’) came to be swept along on the tide of Nazism. Germany has produced many good films and books exploring this question (and it’s important to remember that there was opposition to Hitler in Germany itself, although it was quickly crushed), but I don’t believe ZDF is doing the question justice, despite the moral qualms of the five young protagonists. In my opinion, ZDF have just not got it right, for all the ‘Saving Private Ryan’ type of camerawork and special effects. There are too many holes and inconsistencies for it to ring entirely true.

            I don’t mean to be harsh on Maude (above) but if your argument is that the filmmakers did a great job because they consulted historians, then what I’m saying is that
            the historians got it wrong. Apart from the embarrassing ‘shalom’ moment, which immediately struck a false note, there’s Charlotte’s muddled motivation: is she or isn’t she a product of Nazi Germany, and if she is, then why is she friendly with Viktor in the first place? (Also, wouldn’t she more likely have been ‘Lotte’ in 1940s Germany, rather than ‘Charly’?)

            As for the Polish resistance – to be shown soon – my parents would have been appalled had they seen how the Poles were being portrayed. My (Catholic) parents fought
            alongside Polish Jewish soldiers during the war, worked with Polish Jewish colleagues afterwards, had lifelong Polish Jewish friends and they and others of their generation were by no means unique. Sometimes it feels as if ZDF are trying to say “well, actually, we Germans were on the whole less anti-Semitic than the others”.

            I don’t know if the Spectator will allow me to post a link, but the comments section for this programme over at the Radio Times gives you an idea of my position – if you’re interested, that is.

            Best wishes, Michal.


          • Scott Moore

            Hi Michal,

            Thanks for including the link – there are interesting comments on the radiotimes site.

            Well, I don’t think it is a case of my position shifting over the course of a couple of days, just that I’m slowly revealing more of my opinions, which are certainly neither black nor white. I initially posted here because it seems to me that Delingpole’s review was based on a false understanding of the history combined with a strong anti-German prejudice. He may well be right in that this TV miniseries is flawed – but I’d rather such an opinion be based on sound reasoning and access to the facts – like you display.

            I also lived in Germany and I agree with your comments about the Germans. That is why I am particularly aggrieved by comments such as Delingpole’s – I used to hear this type of opinion quite often 30 years ago, but I believed that it had more or less died out by now.

            “but if your argument is that the filmmakers did a great job because they consulted historians” Not at all. I think I wrote a couple of times in different comments that what usually happens in historical TV drama (I’ve also heard this from a friend who is a historian and has been consulted for TV programmes) is that historians are consulted but that their views often have little influence on the final product, as the programme makers have other priorities – even if they initially accept the views of the experts, they may well “sacrifice” authenticity for the sake of budget, dramatic licence etc.

            If I were to try to put my main argument in simplistic terms, then I would say, “don’t expect TV drama to be historically authentic – if you want authenticity then read a book”. As an avid reader of historical non-fiction and, in particular, of military history, I long ago realised that TV and film drama is rarely a good source for learning about history. I would also say, “please, don’t blame the historians consulted for the final product of any TV or film drama”. You simply cannot judge their professional merit based on a piece of populist TV that they happened to be consulted about – please judge them on their own written output.

          • Michal Karski

            The problem, from my point of view – and I have a feeling you will probably agree with me on this – is that most people (and I’m not being patronising or elitist when I say this) will get their history from TV shows rather than books.

          • Scott Moore

            Most people will not be watching this series – a subtitled TV drama set during World War II will appeal to a minority audience, most of whom, I believe, will already be fairly knowledgeable about the main events depicted. Hollywood films are a far bigger problem as they attract a large audience.

            Most people in the UK just don’t get history. Compared to, say, the Hungarians, the level of historical awareness among the general population is low. Having said that, among the minority who are interested in history, the level of knowledge is probably quite high. There is certainly a significant market here for popular history, both in books and on TV.

          • Michal Karski

            I may have to maintain radio silence for the foreseeable few hours, for the simple reason that the sun is shining and there’s stuff to do in the garden. Nice talking to you. Cheers M

          • EV docmaker

            I agree with most of what you say but using Hungarians as an example was a very poor choice. Given the nature of their government and society right now one could presume that a mere 25 years of post Soviet feeding on both a Hollywood mental diet and a McDonalds fast food diet has rendered their historical conscience mute.

          • Scott Moore

            Using the Hungarians was not a poor choice as a comparison. I lived for over a decade in Hungary and have read a lot of Hungarian history, so I know what I’m writing about. Your glib comment suggests that you do not – but if you do have any evidence for it, then by all means enlighten me. I would, in fact, suggest the opposite to you. It is the Hungarians’ historical awareness (flawed as it may be) that has encouraged them to embrace political parties that both hark back to pre-communist times and vehemently oppose the remaining vestiges of the communist era. If anything stifled their historical “conscience” (I can only guess at what you mean by this – let me assume it is knowledge of events during World War II, especially the role of Hungarians in the deportation of over 400,000 Hungarian Jews) then it was the censorship of the communist era. Pre-1990 it was virtually taboo to acknowledge that Hungary was a willing ally of Nazi Germany and that elements within Hungary willingly participated in implementing Nazi policies. Twenty five years has not been long enough to address the failures of history teaching during the communist era.

            As a sidenote, Western Europeans in general and, especially the British, are far more exposed to McDonalds, Hollywood and American culture as a whole than are the Hungarians.

          • EV docmaker

            In the USA and UK that is true but NOT in Germany that is the problem here. Because most Anglo-Americans rely almost exclusively on Hollywood’s crap representation of everything they presume this miniseries carries the same burden for Germans. The producers have said that the audience can fill in a lot of stuff because their education and cultural system has made the deeper and broader knowledge the norm in German society. For them this is not the be all and end all its just a TV show designed to get the younger generation to ask the oldest in their families to come clean before they die.

          • Jan

            Yep…this is the sad true…but even when books are the source…does the people research both sides of the true?..

          • Michal Karski

            In fact, when I think about it, and I don’t want to sound overly cynical here, but using the name ‘Charly’ rather than ‘Lotte’ might make the character appeal more to Anglo-Saxon audiences….

          • Jan

            “Contrary to the stereotype” ??….German stereotype where?…in U.K?…in Europe??…it means that you are still racist and prejudge people based on its nationality?….wow !!!…i thought you were over such thinks…

    • tjamesjones

      You know what Maude, I think it’s probably the case that Schubert was both German and Austrian. The clue is that he spoke as his mother tongue a language called ‘German’. He wrote pieces with names like “Deutsche Tanze” (German Dance). If you think you’re making a useful distinction here, perhaps you would be interested to know that when Schubert was alive there was not even a country called Germany. But there were Germans, and Schubert was one of them. Resolving this problem, as it came to be seen, is the short version cause of Europe’s horrible century of nationalist violence.

    • Scott Moore

      Indeed, I remember now a previous TV review written by Delingpole in which, against all evidence, he claims to be a “Brummie”. He comes from a village in Worcestershire – about a million miles away from Birmingham in all but physical distance.

    • Michal Karski

      Maude – my apologies if my previous comments seemed a tad harsh and ungracious, but your immediate reaction to JD’s article was to defend the series because experts – presumably historians – had been consulted. I’m
      saying that someone, somewhere – and maybe not the historians – got it wrong. For example, in the second episode, how credible was the escape from the train? All the accounts we have of the conditions of those trains – and this point was made by another reviewer (in one of the American papers, I think it was) – is that the prisoners were so tightly packed that there wouldn’t have been room for that kind of movement. And this leads me to something else, which I’ve already written about elsewhere: why are the prisoners in striped concentration camp suits already? Are they being transferred from one camp to another? What’s going on? And the extermination camps themselves have barely been hinted at. The credibility in this series is getting more and more strained. Hopefully the BBC discussion after the series finishes might touch on these points.

      • Michal Karski

        It would be good to see someone like David Cesarani on the panel.

        • Michal Karski

          David Cesarani is the historian I had in mind. Wonder what he would make of this series? (And I can’t do anything out there today: it’s raining…)

          • Scott Moore

            It turns out he was more praising of the series than the other historian invited on to the review show, though he was did strongly point out the implausibility of the Jewish character riding around on a bicycle saying “Shalom” and of the group of four Germans remaining friends with him.

          • Michal Karski

            And this is why I think the credibility of the series was undermined from the very start. It was just remotely conceivable that there would have been such a scenario, in which five German friends would have included a Jew, but very unlikely, as the historians agreed. Yet ZDF presented this as the norm. Now that you’ve (presumably) watched the whole series you might agree that even though the friends commit atrocities and are dehumanized by the war (which seems to me the entire point of the film), nevertheless the viewer remains largely sympathetic to them – or at least understanding of them – because they were presented as such likeable people in the first place. (I’ll gloss over Wilhelm’s service from 1939 – for all I know, he may not have been one of those who shot civilians in Poland from day one).

            As for the discussion afterwards, I thought it was very good. Considering the subject was potentially explosive, I thought everyone was very civilized and full marks to Benjamin Benedict for arguing the ZDF case most persuasively. I still think he imported modern-day Germans into WWII and made caricatures of the Polish resistance, even if, as he pointed out, one of them was not quite so bad as the others.

            And if the object of the whole exercise was to counter-balance the usual Hollywood depiction of the war, then the film had its merits. For the kind of thing I mean, check out this hilarious clip that someone posted over at the Guardian discussion of the series:


          • Scott Moore

            Yes, I’ve watched the whole series now. My overall opinion is that it is a reasonably good drama, that presents some rarely portrayed sides to the war, but which is let down to some extent by mistakes (as Benjamin Benedict seemed to tacitly admit) such as the early portrayal of the position of Viktor and the later portrayal of the Polish resistance (though I understand that the whole plot element of Viktor being in Poland was due to budgetary constraints – as originally conceived, he would have fled to France and later joined the US Army). The whole idea behind Viktor, a Jew, joining an anti-semitic group of resistance fighters seemed rather forced to me. Would they really so readily accept a German, but not a Jewish German? Even if they were anti-semitic, why would they think that the train was full of Jewish prisoners? Surely, they would know that not just Jews were imprisoned and transported by the Germans? The failure to show that not only Jews were the victims of the holocaust is, for me, just as much a problem as the failure to provide positive depictions of resistance to the German occupiers.

            I cannot agree or disagree about an abstract “viewer” remaining sympathetic to the main characters. They were the main characters so, of course, we see events through their eyes to a great extent. This inevitably enables us to sympathise with them more than with minor characters. But, personally, I found my attitudes to the main characters changing over the course of the series and I believe this was intentional on the part of the creators of the series. I certainly did not begin or remain sympathetic to all of them. For example, I found Greta to be a very dislikeable and morally disagreeable character – she prostituted herself to a Gestapo officer in order to advance her career. Her relationship with Viktor just did not ring true and seemed out of character. Even following her imprisonment and execution I could not sympathise with her. On the other hand, Friedhelm began as a very likeable character, but I could no longer sympathise with him after he had unquestioningly committed so many atrocities. It seemed to me that these two characters received their just desserts at the end. Wilhelm, while remaining alive, was a broken man and, again, it seemed to be a measure of justice for someone who had so enthusiastically participated in the invasions of so many countries – his latter desertion hardly qualifies as repentance for a man who, after all, did execute prisoners of war. Charlotte, on the other hand, did make up for her earlier denunciation of a Jewish colleague, though I found the later scenes with Lilija very implausible – would she really have been so forgiving? I suppose it is simply taboo for a German production to portray any Jewish character in anything but the most sympathetic light.

            The motivation behind the series, as Benjamin Benedict mentioned in the discussion, was to facilitate discussion between younger Germans and the last survivors from the generation that was alive during the war. It was not to counter-balance the Hollywood depiction of the war, though it may have performed that function as a by-product.

          • Michal Karski

            I think you’ve just written a very fair and perceptive review of the series and I don’t think you’ve said anything I could disagree with.

            As for the clip, I much preferred Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films

          • stubbikins

            He say he stole the bicycle in that scene. They were young and careless, and Shalom was said only inside with doors closed. It was perfectly plausible.

      • jontseng

        > why are the prisoners in striped concentration camp suits
        > already? Are they being transferred from one camp to another?

        Yes in answer to your second Q. Viktor said he had been in Sachsenhausen prior. J

        • Michal Karski

          Quite right about Sachsenhausen (near Berlin) – I heard Viktor say that as well. So therefore presumably all the others in the cattle truck were from there as well. Alina was certainly in Germany. The train sequence (Kopice, Poland, en route to Auschwitz) must be May 1943 if it follows the sequence of the action chronologically. The last time we saw Viktor was December 1941, so clearly he has been in Sachsenhausen all this time.

          Just checked on Wiki (not infallible, of course) about Sachsenhausen and it says the following: “in 1942 large numbers of Jewish inmates were relocated to Auschwitz. However the construction of a gas chamber and ovens by camp-commandant Anton Kaindl in March 1943 facilitated the means to kill larger numbers of prisoners.” So unless this sequence is a sudden flashback to 1942, Viktor was more likely to have been killed in Germany than to have been sent to his death in Poland.
          I have a feeling that the trains are the nearest we are going to get to any reference to the death camps themselves.
          As for the point about the escape, here’s one opinion:

          • Michal Karski

            Sorry! I should have said, the review contains plot spoilers…

          • Michal Karski

            One more thing – as Columbo might say – ZDF are perfectly entitled to start their story at whichever point they like, but I read earlier that the original storyline has Viktor going to America, in which case Poland probably wouldn’t even have got a mention at all, and WWII would have been a slugfest between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. Considering all the complaints, perhaps they wish they’d gone with the original now?

    • Dodgy Geezer

      ..As usual a poorly written review from Delingpole, absent of understanding and little in the way of facts (Schubert was Austrian James, not German)..

      Er.. yes. And Delingpole does not say he was German. He says:

      “… war, Hitler and Nazism made the civilised people who produced Goethe, Schiller and Schubert do some very uncivilised things…”

      And the Austrians were certainly included in this. After all, Hitler was also Austrian, not German…

    • Peter Bering

      Whenever US(especially) and often UK commentators write on anything WW2 they seem completely brainwashed, jingoistic and simply unable to go into the matter in any other way than waving their own flags.

    • Jan

      KKkkkkk… great comment…the wisdom from Ms. Hickley mutes my passionate comments…respects.

  • Scott Moore

    “the Germans are still so mired in guilt and self-hatred that they can’t admit it.” What racist crap from Mr. Delingpole. To paraphrase his own words, he’s a mid-20th century little Englishman, somehow surviving in the 21st century.

    • Michal Karski

      Hmm – I was born in Worcester. Never ever thought of myself as a Brummie, though. As for JD as a mid- 20th century Englishman living in the here and now – maybe he’s a time traveller as well?

      But his main idea of not trusting this film is sound, it seems to me, because of the way the main characters are presented as essentially modern young Germans with 21st century sensibilities who have been somehow ‘parachuted’, to use his description, into the Third Reich. I wouldn’t go as far as he does about Germans generally – I lived there for a while and have nothing but good memories – but the series is seriously flawed (and not just because of its skewed portrayal of the Polish resistance as being more fascist than the Nazis themselves). There’s too much missing. (What happened to the years between 1939 and 1941?) And would ZDF have been able to sell the series to the UK and US if the Wehrmacht had been shown executing British POWs? (It did happen, of course. Remember ‘The Great Escape’?

      Verdict so far: maybe watchable TV but far too implausible as history.

      • Scott Moore

        If Delingpole’s assessment of this TV miniseries is sound, then it is purely by chance – given his gross and wildly incorrect generalisation about modern Germans, then I’d be extremely surprised if his grasp of history is anything but extremely tenuous. Indeed, there is nothing historically inaccurate about a group of Germans living in Germany openly being friends with a Jew in 1941.

        Unlike you I haven’t seen the whole of the series yet – just the first episode. So, I haven’t reached any conclusions about it yet. But I simply don’t see these “modern young Germans with 21st century sensibilities” among the main characters. Yes, they are unlikely bunch – almost too unlikely as a group to be taken seriously – but that is far from unusual in TV or film depictions of history. So far (only one episode in), I have seen a young woman nurse who effectively condemns a Jewish doctor to death by denouncing her to the authorities. I have yet to meet a modern young German who would even countenance such an act. The other main female character seems to regard prostituting herself to a rather unpleasant SS officer as a valid career move. Again, this is hardly characteristic of 21st century sensibilities. But then maybe Delingpole, with his out-of-date point of view, is completely ignoring the female characters. As for Wilhelm having problems with executing a prisoner – why shouldn’t he? It’s a war crime and, presumably, the first one he has ever carried out. Not all Wehrmacht officers were the evil sadists of Hollywood films from the 1960s.

        • Michal Karski

          Charlotte has pangs of conscience. Would a woman brought up in the Hitler Youth movement even have given such a denunciation a second thought? And the idea that this group of friends, two of whom are in the army, should include one among their number who just happens to be Jewish? After years of anti-Jewish propaganda? Cheerfully calling out ‘Shalom!’ to him as he pedals up on his bike? I don’t buy it.
          We will have to agree to differ. Shalom.

          • Scott Moore

            You’ve confused me – where exactly do you think we differ? One of my points is that Charlotte is not a character with 21st century sensibilities. Do you think she is? Giving a second thought about condemning someone because of their ethnic origin does make her “modern” – a modern person would not denounce someone for being a Jew in the first place. Now, if you are trying to point out that Charlotte is not a convincing character then I do not disagree. In fact, on the basis of the first episode, neither have I found the main characters very convincing.

            “Would a woman brought up in the Hitler Youth movement even have given such a denunciation a second thought?” Let me rephrase your question: did all members of the Hitler Youth movement totally lack any conscience? Clearly not. So, yes, it is possible for a woman brought up in the Hitler Youth movement to have given a second thought to giving a Jew up to the Gestapo. Now, please bear in mind that most of us have not yet seen more than the first episode. Delingpole himself writes that we simply don’t know much about Charlotte’s character. Maybe all is revealed about Charlotte’s past in episode 2. I’m basing my opinion on what I’ve seen so far, as Delingpole also seems to do, rather than second-guessing what happens in the rest of the miniseries.

            “And the idea that this group of friends, two of whom are in the army, should include one among their number who just happens to be Jewish?” Well, he doesn’t just happen to be Jewish. The back story is that they grew up together, which is entirely reasonable. I agree that it is very unlikely that they would all have remained friends, especially if Charlotte is the die-hard Hitlerite that you seem to be implying. And, yes, the “Shalom” made me cringe too. But, my disagreement with Delingpole is not about plausibility but about historical accuracy. He implied that their friendship with a Jew in 1941 is historically inaccurate. It is not. Implausible, yes, inaccurate, no. Regarding the incident with the cigarette, I agree it is a poor plot device and not properly explained. But surely Wilhelm would not have wanted Friedrich executed and, presumably, persuaded his men to punish him with a beating rather than send him to be executed – it’s just a pity that this wasn’t shown and, thus, this type of historical details was neglected in favour of other concerns.

            Just to make doubly clear – I am not disagreeing with you about the accuracy of the series as a whole. Nor about the plausibility of the characters.

          • Michal Karski

            Scott – thanks for the reply. I’ll try to compose a lengthier post dealing with all the points you raise, but for the moment, it looks as if we might agree on more than we disagree. I’ve got to do some serious socializing right now but will try to get back to you soonish.

            You make the distinction between accuracy and plausibility. If I were Yoda I might be tempted to say;”splitting hairs you might be.”

          • Scott Moore

            You make a valid point about accuracy and plausibility. I would remind you that this is a work of fiction. Of course, any work of fiction has at least some basis in reality, and you can compare that basis to the reality and measure how accurate it is. But purely fictional elements, by definition, can neither be accurate nor inaccurate as they are not representing anything other than the creator’s imagination. That’s why I wrote about plausibility. A purely fictional character, while not representing any real person and, therefore, neither being inaccurate nor accurate, can nevertheless be measured in terms of likelihood of existing in the first place, performing certain actions etc. In other words, a fictional character can be plausible or implausible, as can the story as a whole.

            Most people expect historical fiction to be accurate in terms of its setting. But historical fiction doesn’t have to accurately reflect past conditions and events in order to be valid. After all, history itself is not fact nor reality but a representation of reality based on historical facts. The history of any given period changes with time, as new facts emerge, as points of view shift, and as moral, ethical and other values change. Similarly, at any given point in time, several versions of history exist simultaneously e.g. you’ll find substantially different versions of the history of World War II in contemporary Britain, Russia, China and Japan. A work of fiction such as Generation War will reflect some versions of history but not others. Clearly this TV series was designed primarily for a modern German audience and, as such, it reflects their history rather than, say, that of the Poles (some of whom have severely criticised it because of an issue that they are particularly sensitive to).

            Finally, let me remind everyone – this is TV, a populist medium designed to appeal to the masses. I’m not defending it, merely pointing out that it has very different (ie, much lower) standards on issues such as historical accuracy than other media. Some TV historical fiction manages to rise above these standards, and should be praised for doing so, but generally it makes sense to judge TV by its own standards.

          • stubbikins

            They all grew up together, propaganda does not erase real friendship. Viktor was an individual they loved since before Hitler, not some faceless Jew. People have always been able to love someone even if they are racist against that loved one’s race. The reason that anti Jewish propaganda had to be so constant was that many people saw through the lies, especially in Germany where Jews had been fully integrated into society for centuries. It is hard to make people hate their friends and family, which many Jews were.

          • Michal Karski

            Thanks for the comment, S. You make an absolutely valid point. We could assume that the five young friends are all in their late twenties, certainly of a very similar age if they were all growing up together in the days of the Weimar Republic. Perhaps, as you say, their friendship might have survived the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda of the thirties. If that is the case, then they would have been rather exceptional people for their time. I believe this is one of the film’s main problems: that an exceptional group of people are being presented as rather typical young Germans of the period.

            But even if we accept this unlikely group as plausible friends from way back, then another question arises. Why is Viktor still friendly with Wilhelm in 1941? Are we to believe that Viktor is entirely unaware of what Wilhelm and his army colleagues have been doing for the past two years, particularly during the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, during which the population was decimated, cities were bombed, columns of fleeing civilians were strafed, a total war had been prosecuted with a brutality unknown until then, and Viktor’s co-religionists became a particular target for Nazi atrocities? And Vikor and Wilhelm still greet each other with ‘Shalom’?

          • stubbikins

            There were many non Jews who saved and helped Jews. What are you basing your claim on that Germans were rarely friends with Jews? Out of fear most people were not helping, they would be killed for giving a piece of bread to a Jew after 1942. That does not mean that all Germans hated and avoided Jews all their lives. And no, I found nothing wrong with the Shalom, jokes are common among close friends, even ones joking about religion/race, etc. I have many multicultural friends and little jokes poking at stereotypes are VERY normal. No reason to think people in the 1940s didn’t make jokes… of course they did! They were human beings.

            Foot soldiers rarely knew everything that was going on. They were focused on being shot at and trying not to die. Assuming a low level officer would have great knowledge of anything beyond what he is ordered to do and the 10 feet in front of him is ridiculous, it is just as ridiculous as assuming that all Germans believed everything Hitler told them. And in 1939 the ghettos and final solution had not begun yet. No one could predict what was coming or know what the SS had in mind beyond restrictions that had existed in previous centuries and were not shocking, they had come and gone for hundreds of years.

          • Michal Karski

            I’m not actually talking about ‘The Final Solution’. I’m talking about the barbarity of the invading army right at the beginning of the war – in 1939. The Nazis terrorised Poland, burning synagogues and murdering Jews. I am not able to post a link but I recommend that you Google, for just one example, “The Synagogues of Zaglembie and their Destruction” by M. Hampel.

            And I’m not disputing there might have been the kind of friendships you describe, but I’m saying that Viktor must have been completely ignorant of what Wilhelm and his colleagues did in Poland if he continued to be friendly with him.

          • Michal Karski
          • Peter Bering

            Your comments are really not relevant. Media access was VERY different in 1941 than i 2014. And the widespread persecution and killings of Jews in Poland did not start until 1942.

          • Domo

            If I recall, Wermacht REQUIRED everyone to serve at one point or another, especially on the eastern front

            Hard to get mad at someone if they were to be drafted anyway

          • Peter Bering

            Your problem is that you view events in 1941 assuming media access of 2014. Life in Germany was not very deadly for civilians, including Jews, until 1942.

          • Michal Karski

            Are you serious? Why did so many (civilian) opponents of Hitler leave Germany when they could? Why did so many of them end up in concentration camps (in Germany)? Why did many Jews get out of Germany when they could, especially after Kristallnacht?

            And as for the persecution and killing of Jews in Poland: perhaps they weren’t killed on an industrial scale until after the Wannsee Conference of January 1942, but the elimination of Jews was “widespread” enough right at the beginning of the war. Just one example out of many: between the 16th and the 19th of September the Einsatzgruppen murdered between 500 to 600 Jews in Przemysl.

        • Dr. Federico Candiani

          Mr. Moore is right.
          Firstly we cannot let ourselves making judgments on the wave of the modern approach to the study of the Nazi Germany. The picture that Mr. Delingpole draw out from the mini series is incorrect, seemingly pretending to have a strong, historically- accurate background of the Nazi Germany and its people.
          Instead I have the feeling that the image portrayed by ” Generation War” is a good representation of what could have happened to different peoples and personalities between 1941 and 1945 in Germany. The fact that there is a Jew, two completely different women, two opposite brothers ( soldiers) suggests that there was the intention to give a well- rounded view of the possible consequences of the Third Reich on its people.

        • Jan

          Totally agree

  • sayajp

    It is stunning. Delingpole is talking utter rubbish.

  • “the Germans are still so mired in guilt and self-hatred that they can’t admit it”. Can you expand on this JD based on your knowledge of Germany / interaction with friends, business contacts or other connections with the country? It’s a caricature I don’t recognise but happy to have my mind changed.

  • Radders

    A beautifully made homage to Spielberg’s Private Ryan – excellent photography, accurate costumes, brilliant battle scenes and only a scant resemblance to historical accuracy. Other directors are doing better – Cate Shortland’s superb ‘Lore’, and even the 1982 drame series “Blut und Ehre: Jugend unter Hitler” show how highly improbable it is that characters subsumed in Nazi ideology since their early teens would have a Jewish chum in the early 1940s. And (warning – plot spoiler) Greta’s end is a cop-out – a Freisler-court and the shocking industrial execution by Fallbeil that was the reality would have been far more shocking. What is missed is the constant, threatening, Orwellian intellectual repression that characterised the Third Reich and conditioned every word spoken – even in private, even between friends and lovers. Well worth watching and watching again – but don’t abandon your critical faculties.

  • Sucarol

    It’s a stunning mini-series, way better than the BBC’s current , somewhat banal , offering ‘Crimson Field’ which does little to convey the horror and dilemmas of war. James is locked into a ‘little Englander’ view of German, narrow and stereotypical.
    Agree with Scott Moore that this verges on the racist.

  • squatt1cus .

    Delingpole, you silly sausage, I’m sure if a Royal Marine sergeant can execute a prisoner in Afghanistan, in contravention to his training and the laws of war, then a German soldier can have a crafty fag. There must have been more disregarded orders in the history of war than those that were followed.

    Just watched episode 2 (missed the first one, sadly) and thought it was excellent.

    James Thorne (former Captain, Royal Tank Regiment)

  • squatt1cus .

    Rereading this review it really is utter drivel. Take the punchline:

    “But even now, 70 years after the war’s end, the Germans are still so mired in guilt and self-hatred that they can’t admit it. If you believe, as I do, that failing to understand your past condemns you to repeat it, this is not an encouraging sign.”

    Germans well remember and understand their past, which is why they did not join the charge to Iraq. It was sadly Britain that repeated that past, of aggression which it thought would have no consequences, on that occasion.

    James Thorne (former Captain, Royal Tank Regiment)

    • jamesdelingpole

      Cheers, James. But a) it wasn’t a crafty fag – it was a blatant one, and that was the point. and b) the point you’re making about the Germans is the opposite of the one I make in the piece. Their refusal to fight in Iraq (I don’t blame them but that’s another story) is symptomatic of the problem I describe, not a refutation of it.

  • mikewaller

    Contra some of the opinions expressed below, I think JD bang on the money here. As usual, this causes me considerable internal stress, as I find so much of his work in other spheres risible. Nor should his critique be seen as solely relevant to German treatments of WW2. A couple of weeks ago Radio 4 had a PG Wodehouse story as their classic serial. So modern were the accents and speech patterns they managed to make it almost entirely humourless. Among their many other triumphs, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry may have to be credited as the last actors capable of doing this sort of thing properly.

  • Peter Brown

    James, would it be normal for a private to have his brother as his Lieutenant for a prolonged period? Or did OKW make an exception to help the plot along?

  • William Haworth

    I watched it on Youtube when it first came out (fluent German speaker, doncha know. Now wasn’t THAT a waste of 10 years study).

    If you think it’s bottling out 2/3 of the way through, then you will not be surprised at the ending. I won’t spoil anything, other than to say that at least two plot decisions were distinctly cowardly. Still, the Germans are starting from a low base, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too judgemental

    • Peter Bering

      You must remember that by far the lowest base of all is US fiction and lies, and that the British are not far behind. You simply did not find your precious life-time indoctrination confirmed and you thus promptly short-circuited.

  • michael murray

    Although realistic looking and at first glance compelling , this is dangerous!! it cherry picks five random Germans , one the victim , the others all so very casual about anti sematisim and every other negative generalisation of the German population at the time. Reviving the obscene stigma of National guilt across the whole 80.000.000 Germans of the period. The very same period that 40.000 Germans were subject to capital punishment compared to 24 in the UK in the same period !!! There are 14 known attempts to assassinate Hitler all by Germans , 525 Germans have the tile Righteous gentile awarded by the state of Israel most of them servicemen who helped Jewish people even though it was legally treason at the time . This is a quick indication that everyone in Germany was not a brain washed Holocaust perpetrator or toterator but a population under the most severe totalitarian Police state in recorded history. Not everyone was so casual about death , or blind to suffering due to the obligation of duty. This program as mentioned above is a politically correct concoction , giving a very wrong idea of a general cross section of random Germans of the time . I hope the final message is not “this is what our Mothers and fathers all got up too” Real life is never that one dimentional.

  • justejudexultionis

    They were only obeying orders!

  • Noémi Fábry

    Mr Delingpole, please read up on your history. Stauffenberg, just as the young Wilhelm in Generation Wars supported and fought heart and soul for the Nazi cause as did all of the German Army, up until he had enough in 1942–just as Wilhelm. The slow alienation of Wehrmacht Officers (and their growing disdain for the SS’s domination of the Military) is a historical fact.

    Generation Wars is exactly about the banality of evil and nothing else. It is an exposition on Friedhelm’s pivotal statement: “The war is going to bring the worst out in all of us” (and most true of Friedhelm himself, who by Christmas is pretty evil himself).

    Finally for an English man in an English paper in an England where the terms ’empire’ and ‘colony’ are not even on the school curriculum your final sentence doesn’t bode well: “If you believe, as I do, that failing to understand your past condemns you to repeat it, this is not an encouraging sign”.

    • Scott Moore

      I agree with your first couple of paragraphs. But I would point out that, in the past couple of decades, the British ’empire’ and ‘colonies’ have been on the school history curriculum and, certainly, portrayed in a more balanced way than before, with due mention of negative aspects such as the slave trade.

  • EV docmaker

    I think the English title is a problem. The point of this series was not like many German feature films to imprison the audience in the containment of Nazi ideology or create a documentary the point was not a public debate but the opposite many private conversations in German families before the war generation passes away. Also people outside of Germany tend not to appreciate the Berlin difference. Hitler did not win his election in Berlin it was a rebellious enclave and there was no ghetto there.
    There is another movie that portrays how Berlin gentile wives protested and won their Jewish husbands back from a concentration camp. Hence the friendship of the characters was more feasible to come out of Berlin than any other city.

  • EV docmaker

    American and British films barely touch the surface of British and American historical atrocities so who the F are we to talk !

    • stubbikins

      Because American and British “atrocities” in this war were nothing whatsoever like those of Germany and Japan. German prisoners of war lived in comfort, Americans were starved to death on death marches, if they were not hanged or shot.

      Americans and British did not murder tens of millions of civilians in death camps.

      America was imperfect, the Japanese camps were a bad thing… but they were not being murdered by the millions, it is not comparable.

  • nerdrrage

    I only just saw this on streaming (thanks, Netflix!) and was very disappointed to see that the “German Band of Brothers” description was way way off the mark. This review is accurate. It’s cheesy hackwork that indulges in weasly dodges to let the German audience off the hook by over-emphasizing the victimhood of the main characters.

    Like this reviewer, I also got the impression that Friedhelm in particular was far too modern in his sensibilities; that average Germans did not have friendships with Jews (some did of course, but this wasn’t representative); and Charlotte’s betrayal of the Jewish nurse was out of left field and incomprehensible since she hadn’t been depicted as an anti-Semite, if that was even the reason.

    The banality of evil would have been better depicted by a character like Michael Moriarty played in the long-ago miniseries, Holocaust: an average guy who joins the Nazi party because it’s a good way to get a job and feed his family. He wasn’t a victim, and the story held him responsible for his actions, never trying to tug at our heartstrings and make us feel sorry for him.

    Generation War is just well-produced, well-acted melodrama. Watch it on that basis if you want to.

    • stubbikins

      Charlotte made more sense than any other character. She was fully indoctrinated in her training, yet she had a Jewish friend, this was not uncommon since most Germans grew up side by side with Jews. In Poland Jews had more separate lives in the country, but in Germany it was not the same, before Hitler, gentiles and Jews were very integrated, had friendships and marriages. Germans served with Jews in the first world war. They were not separated that much.

      A person having a close friendship with someone also does not eliminate the racism, many racists simply think of their friend as an exception to the rules. I had a grandmother who was horribly racist, but of course thought she wasn’t, because she went to a black doctor who she said “was okay because he is highly rated doctor” That is how racism works. It is how slave holders would LOVE the nurse that raised them… while beating all the other slaves.

      You also forget that everyone was under constant threat that if they know something and do not tell, they are helping the Jews and thus could be imprisoned or killed themselves. That is a powerful threat.

      There was nothing particularly modern about Friedhelm. He grew up after WW1, a time that had tons of reflection on war and patriotism and all the levels of philosophy that character was absorbed in. People were not stupid in the 40s, nor were they all the same. I saw nothing about Friedhelm that was out of place for that time period, especially in the context of a very young man seeing atrocities none of us today can imagine…. and losing his sanity, and his soul from it. He killed himself because he already knew he could not go back to real life after he spent some time in it when he was injured. He knew he could not live with his demons and the things he had done.

    • Peter Bering

      You sound like the standard wreck of the omnipresent and grotesque US propaganda, where every single German 1933 to 1945 has to be totally uniform and evil to the core. And above all uniformly guilty. Two, three generations of US trash talk and historical lies has worked.

      As to nurse Charlotte, she did not report the Jewish commissar woman until the latter had been caught stealing morphine and observed killing wounded in the night. Their vague “friendship” just reflected normal human nature beyond ideologies and war. The Jewish commissar doctor had to commit hostile acts before being reported by Charlotte. Charlotte acted consistently. The only unnatural thing was that she absurdly excused herself for having reported the commissar, one of three or four irrational cave-ins to Jewish pressure in the series.

      • Mike Timmons

        Peter, you might get within reach of credibility if you did not lead with personal insult. It is good comedy to observe this tendency of yours in very many responses to people here. So for example if you dropped the first paragraph above your second presents you as credible, at least until your last sentence. Good luck persuading others with this style.

  • Barry Layton

    Where is Maximilian Schell when you need him?

  • rogerinflorida

    Haven’t seen the drivel, but I would guess it is about as historically accurate as “Braveheart”. There may have been a few Germans “ambivalent” about WW2 but they were very few and far between. They would not have been able to achieve the incredible victories they had against Poles, French, British, Yugoslav, Soviet (initially!) without 100% faith in and complete commitment to Adolph Hitler and National Socialism. If you really want to ponder the German mentality during WW2 you should consider that they suffered approx. 100,000 casualties themselves and inflicted some 250,000 on the Soviets in the battle of Berlin, when even the most diehard among them had to know it was all over.
    And if by some miracle Hitler could return today he would be elected in a landslide.

    • Peter Bering

      Lol, “rogerinflorida” is, of course, inevitably an idiot.

      • rogerinflorida

        Peter Bering is, of course, a narrow minded ignorant blowhard, and a german apologist. You display an astounding ignorance of 19th/20th century history and match it with a thoroughly unpleasant conceit. You are a twerp.

  • Madra_Rua

    Just a note before reading this comment: There are a few spoilers, so if you have yet to finish the show I’d pass this one by.

    Was it not apparently obvious throughout the entire series the Friedhelm was waiting and welcoming death upon himself, disillusioned with what the war done to the world, and what the post-war world would become.

    The cigarette incident was the first in a long line of cries-for-death for him; his first volunteering for a skirmish; his suicide charge at a MG position after he thought Wilhelm was killed by rocket fire; his re-enlisting after being granted leave due to a combat-injury. Indeed, his suicide charge against the Russians when given the option of surender was his understanding that the war was hours from completition and that instead of waiting for the inevitable he had to be meet the reaper half-way.

    Regarding Charlotte, I thought the opening pre-war scenes clearly portrayed that all but Friedhelm had bought into the Nazi ideology is some shape or form, even Viktor. Charlotte certainly shows before her naive patriotism before this incident, with her introduction to the field-hospital staff.

    I think some the remarks are quite xenophobic in this review, you simply cannot pigeon-hole an entire nation into the anti-jewish setiment, so of course you could imagine that Charlotte, Greta, Wilhelm and Friedhelm still see Viktor as a friend after the rise of Nazism, afterall we are lead to believe that they were friends for the 20 years previous to the story’s beginning. Also, to say that it is unimaginable that a Wehrmacht officer finds it difficult to shoot an umarmed prisoner in the back of the head, is just plain ignorant. It takes a special kind of monster to be able to embrace such a barbaric deed, even a brain-washed German would surely have some empathy towards their victim. The Wehrmacht and the Nazis two completely different animals.

    How are wartime Germans not victims? Propaganda and fear and powerful weapons, once again with this comment you’ve failed to seperate the Nazi party from Germany.

    The main hole in your argument however is the fact that you forget that this is a story, nothing more, and like all scripts not all of its content is 100% factually correct. Just because in your twisted mind the people of 1930s & early 1940s Germany is defined and embodied my Adolf Hitler, doesn’t make it so.

  • Mike Timmons

    I watched this on Netflix with no English subtitles so didn’t really track the dialog. Maybe the characters mused verbally but it is unnecessary to absorb fictional character dialog with history as our guide. In fact, I am glad to have watched this way, and I look forward to an English subtitled version so I can compare my impressions of the program.

    German and Japanese docility is the root cause of WWII evil: easily manipulated, “unified”, and led. “We” American descendants of Europeans see Asian idiosyncrasies as products of a long, isolated history we can’t understand. In a sense we pity and forgive their naivete to engage our industrial colossus. Not racially, but geo-politically we can condescend to the upstart, non-isolated Japanese for their folly. But Germany, although recently unified in the 19th century, was “smart” enough to know what it was getting into from from 1870 on, so therefore pure evil, collectively.

    As I age I increasingly loathe Germany from unification, through Hitler, to the death of the last with any nostalgia for the period. Hans Frank’s, “1000 years” I suppose. German fascination with destruction is evident in the mythical death heads and other icons prevalent in WWI and evident in the destruction of everything occupied and retreated from on the Western Front in the teens. Unification in the 19th simply combined sheep within the Prussian fold, within which they became wolves or were themselves slaughtered.

    We celebrate German industry and elements of their culture and gifts to mankind. We sort of celebrate the Wehrmacht in an attempt to hold such an efficient fighting force (for a time) in high esteem for its, “gifts” to warfare. This is folly on our part. Germany was morally bankrupt, or maybe never had any balance in the moral account post-unification, so therefore ever as a nation we see it as.

    What we actually, “celebrate” is that WWII gave the US the opportunity to build a better army than a good one: the Wehrmacht, the best Navy over the Royal Navy, and the best mobile fighting force with Marines, Airborne, amphibious capabilities, and technology, and ownership global decisions. German evil and Japanese folly levered-up the US as the global super power it still is. In relative terms we paid very little blood for this treasure.The Devil made us great so we don’t criticize him as we should. Germany, continue to be damned.

    • Peter Bering

      You are very ugly man. Concentrate rather on the reasons why Hitler and the militaristic way was chosen. The tipping points were the stupid and impossible demands for repayment by allies like the UK and France, and, most of all, the enormous threat to all of Europe from by far the worst regime in European history: the Soviet Union. An empire of endless horror.

      • Mike Timmons

        Ugly? In what sense. Please elaborate. Was the Soviet Union a threat before WWI? Certainly Bolshevism was in-general, but Germany unified under the militarist Prussian Junkers long before the Soviet Union under Stalin was an established, miserable reality. With that we can agree.

        You can toss another ad homimen at me followed by tired excuses as to why an entire populace would follow the Nazi cult. The individual German today is no more-or-less valuable or special as my U.S. neighbor, so don’t read me wrong.

        By Germany be-damned I meant the Germany of the era, so as not to give way to nostalgia for it. Also, it was Germany not simply the Nazis as history sanitizes it. So that reads a bit ugly for which I apologize, but I’ll not suffer nostalgia for the ascendant Germany of the 1930’s. It was a false ascendancy, and morally bankrupt.

      • Mike Timmons

        I add that your personal insult that I am a, “simple person” precedes very basic, dare I say simple, reparations argument. That was a tired argument before the war, let alone now.

        Hitler destroyed the German economy by turning it into an armed camp. He was forced to war to cement his power domestically, which would have otherwise faltered with the crash of the false economy he built. Any regime could have defaulted on the reparations payment and still not waged such a conquest.

        We can agree reparations are a bad idea, but you won’t like my reasoning. History has proven that total defeat and unconditional surrender is an immediate payment more effective than financial reparations thereafter. Pay in blood, pride, and will to fight down to the last patch of your home turf. Then quit (for good) and a benevolent victor will even help you restructure, rebuild, and prosper.

      • rogerinflorida


    • rogerinflorida

      A great comment. Bismarck, in unifying Germany, organised the first national socialist state. The German people were provided for but in return surrendered their personal sovereignty and became pawns in the machinations of the political elite (something like what has happened recently in the US!). The fundamental driver of both WW1 and WW2 was the desire of Germany to acquire, by military means, an empire in European Russia. The WW1 reparations issue had no effect in causing WW2, although the Germans did not like it, their plan was to be the looters rather than the lootees! What did have an effect was WW1 ending with an armistice rather than undisputed Allied victory. General Pershing, amongst others, wanted to invade and conquer Germany, prophetically he realized that the Germans would later claim that they had not been defeated, but rather betrayed by Jews and politicians. This is why in WW2, unconditional surrender was demanded, the German had their faces rubbed in defeat, and it worked, not too many German politicians calling for the invasion of Russia these days!
      It always amuses me when people speak of “90% of WW2 fighting on the Eastern Front”, and lionize Russia as the slayer of Fascism. Like all myths there is an element of truth in it, however, step back and consider what the United States achieved: First; they provided Russia with the material support they needed, in vast amounts, without which Russia would have been defeated in 1942. Second; they singlehandedly defeated the Empire of Japan with some assistance from Australia. Third; they built the ships that ensured German defeat in the Battle of the Atlantic. Fourth; raised an army of fifty divisions to invade Western Europe. All of this simultaneously, “but the Russians are the real heroes”.

  • Peter Bering

    One aspect of this series that is very important: the overwhelming part of the military action took place in the East. The ridiculous overemphasis on the landing in France in summer 1944(!) by anglo media systematically overlooks the fact that almost all the soldiers and all the material lost in WW2 were long since lost on the eastern front and that the war was long since decided when that landing took place in 1944. Normandy was purely a race to grab land and influence from the advancing Soviets.

    • Mike Timmons

      Yes Peter, important and obvious. There is not much to glorify from the point a Wermacht conscript would (if he could) escape Normandy and retreat all the way back to Berlin where he could be killed by his own for not fighting or by the Soviets. By playing the movie out in the east at least we can start with some German feel-good scenes. Had the movie jumped to the Western front Maybe we could see some glory in a re-enactment of the wasting winter counter-offensive where we might see a depiction of my mother-in-law’s uncle being killed by an 88mm shell by an army stalling for peace terms or still following orders from a foolish leadership circle. In terms of horror and wastage it was a Ukranian war. You’ll need to forgive the, “anglos” for being smart enough to know that war is not worth fighting until you’ve built excessive capacity and industry, keeping flesh in reserve until ready to let-loose with absolute superiority. We might even say that bomber command in England wasted too many crews learning how (not) to bomb targets in ’42-’43, and N. Africa/Sicily/Italy were at worst PR to show Stalin we were doing something with another front, or at most a training ground for eventual assault through France.

  • Richard Lutz

    • Richard Lutz

    Mr Delingpole made some good points about the historical accuracy of Generation War, though it was entertaining and made you reflect on the consequences of war which often brings out the worst in people, as Friedhelm asserted. I found Friedhelm the most interesting character, with his conscious decision to become an efficient, amoral killer despite his reservations in order to save his own life was in stark contrast to the motivations of many of contemporaries, who were either enthusiastic Nazis or had a child-like acceptance of authority. Friedhelm was able to help his Jewish friend by shooting the SS officer, thus had not entirely lost his humanity.

    Friedhelm’s life had become unbearable as a result of committing hideous crimes precisely because he had retained his humanity, and found an opportunity for some redemption and penance by demonstrating to the Volkssturm youths the unpleasant reality of death with his one-man charge. A cathartic moment. Wilhelm and Charlotte were not so fortunate, as they must live with their crimes. Few of us commit such crimes, yet most of us sit on our hands while hideous crimes are committed in nations like Saudi Arabia and China. Thus most of us are guilty of the sin of omission.

    I thought all the principle actors did a very good job within the confines of the script and would like to see more of them, notably Miriam Stein who played Charlotte. She has a ‘girl next door’ quality much like Kirsten Dunst. Sadly it appears that most of their work is in German. I pitched an idea for a film about Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya to the producers of the Divergent films that I’d like Shailene Woodley to star in, and would like these actors to be cast as German soldiers/auxiliaries. Ideally the director and co-writer of Enemy of the Gates (Jean-Jacques Annaud) would be involved.

  • Jan

    Who ever wrote this for The Spectator is obviously non German, being such, how can he or she criticize the failures in definition characters or being more realistic of the series when ALL British, North American, etc films and series have always demonize German soldiers and promoted a bunch of non-realistic myths ??…on teh other and it is very true that Germans are still so mired in guilt and self-hatred…but don’t they deserve this mainly to the allies and specially British mind washing after WW2 ?? !!!…come on…don’t be so hypocritical Mr. or Ms writer form THE SPECTATOR !…..