Wir waren fünf Freunde. Wir waren jung. Wir waren unsterblich. Wir sollten es bald besser wissen.* We were five friends. We were young. We were immortal. We would soon know better.
"Our Mothers, Our Fathers". Basically Band of Brothers, but with Germans. And extra grim, since it's primarily set on the Eastern Front.June 1941. Five childhood friends gather in Berlin to hold a goodbye party for the three among them who are soon to head for Russia. Wilhelm Winter and his younger brother Friedhelm have been called to serve in the Wehrmacht, while Charlotte has volunteered as a nurse. Staying in Berlin are aspiring singer Greta Müller and her Jewish lover Viktor Goldstein. The group wish each other well, and part ways in high spirits, hoping to be together again at Christmas.Of course, it doesn't quite work out like that. And as the months and years drag by, and the fighting becomes ever more brutal, for these young people the war becomes a desperate struggle not only to survive, but to retain their humanity even while serving an inhumane regime.
This series contains examples of:
Abandoned Hospital: The military hospital where Charlotte is stationed is inevitably evacuated in the wake of the Russian advance.
Aloof Big Brother: Wilhelm, who has previous experience from the invasions of Poland and France, and who has attained the rank of Lieutenant, considers his bookish brother, a new recruit, to be too soft for the work of a soldier, and confesses to feeling ashamed of him on occasion. On the other hand, he also admires Friedhelm's wit and intelligence.
Child Soldiers: The average age of new recruits steadily drops as the war continues, and by 1945, Friedhelm finds himself serving alongside a 12-year-old.
The Corrupter: Sturmbannführer Hiemer assumes this role towards Friedhelm, halfway ordering him, halfway coaxing him into shooting a child In the Back in one scene, and being the executioner for a group of Polish partisans in another.
Nurse with Good Intentions: Sweet Charlotte practically has good intentions streaming out of her ears, but she has little technical expertise and is at first so shaken by the carnage of the front line that she finds it difficult to follow simple instructions.
Parental Favoritism: Both Winter parents indulge in this. Wilhelm is clearly his stern father's favorite, while younger Friedhelm is doted upon by his mother, who makes Wilhelm swear to bring his little brother back safely.
Rape as Backstory: Alina was repeatedly raped by the German farmer for whom she performed forced labour.
Screw the War, We're Partying: Averted. When the friends (minus Viktor) are reunited during Greta's singing tour, they attempt this, but simply cannot shut out the horrors about them, and return to their respective posts fairly quickly.
Senseless Sacrifice: Greta refuses to provide testimony that Dorn helped Viktor escape Germany, which will serve as his "Get Out of Jail Free" Card, and as a result, he has her executed for treason. However, he escapes justice regardless and ends up working for the Allied administration.
Shiksa Goddess: Greta is this for Viktor. His parents are less than amused - mostly because they fear him falling foul of the law.
And the protagonist's name is Wilhelm Winters, like, you 'now...Dick Winters.
Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Many of the soldiers. Contrast their attitude to shooting suspected partisans (very likely innocent civilians) in 1943 as opposed to their generally more upstanding conduct in 1941.
The Squadette: Lilija commands a division of Russian soldiers during the takeover of the infirmary. Truth in Television, as the Red Army did in fact have many female soldiers, and even several all-female units.
Suicide By Soldier: After the German surrender, Friedhelm, who has become something of a Death Seeker, convinces his fellow soldiers to lay down their arms and give themselves up by walking steadily towards the Russians and shooting the ground in front of them. He is shot, and his death delivers the desired message.
To Absent Friends: In the end Wilhelm, Viktor, and Charlotte reunite in a bar in the bombed Berlin, all scarred by their experiences and raise a toast to the memories of Friedhelm and Greta.
Unfriendly Fire: Sturmbannführer Hiemer tries to coax Friedhelm into shooting Viktor in the same way he got him to shoot the Polish boy. Turns out it doesn't work the second time.
Villainous Breakdown: Hiemer has a short but powerful one in the few minutes between Friedhelm shoots him and he bleeds out. He spends the whole time staring at Friedhelm in utter disbelief, seemingly not comprehending why the man he thought was an unquestionably loyal tool would suddenly turn on him.
Where Are They Now: The final scene in the third episode lets us know the birth and death dates for each of the main characters. Wilhelm is the only one who is apparently still alive as of the present day.