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Series / Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter

Wir waren fünf Freunde. Wir waren jung. Wir waren unsterblich. Wir sollten es bald besser wissen.

"Our Mothers, Our Fathers" (aka Generation War in the US and the UK). Sort of Band of Brothers, but with Germans. And extra grim, since it's primarily set on the Eastern Front, and The Holocaust shows up.

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.
  • Alliterative Name: Wilhelm Winter
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted, none of the five main characters are Nazis and are depicted as normal people living in Nazi Germany.
  • 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.
  • Attempted Rape: Charlotte is assaulted and almost raped by a Russian soldier, but is rescued by Lilija.
  • Big Damn Hero: As written above Charlotte is rescued just in time by Lilja from being raped by a Soviet soldier.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Schneider, the token "true believer" in the unit, is also the fairest.
  • Bookworm: Providing the situation does not merit a gun, Friedhelm Winter is never seen without a book. In one of his first scenes, he attempts to stuff as many books as he can into his luggage.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Alina, the Polish prisoner Viktor goes on the run with.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Greta begins an affair with Dorn in order to obtain false papers from him to help Viktor escape from Germany.
  • Cassandra Truth: We can do a Drinking Game for all the times that Viktor tells his father that German Jews are going to have such hard time and his daddy blindly ignores him.
  • Cat Scare: When Wilhelm looks around an abandoned Russian cabin, he's disturbed by a black cat who knocks over some pans.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Friedhelm manages to use his fluent Russian to disguise himself as a Soviet soldier to escape the enemy lines.
  • Childhood Friends: The five main characters have grown up in the same neighbourhood.
  • 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.
  • Cunning Linguist: Friedhelm is the only one of his fellows soldiers who speaks fluent Russian.
  • Cycle of Revenge:
    Charlotte: Why are you helping me?
    Lilija: Because otherwise it will never stop.
  • Dad the Veteran: Viktor's father fought in World War I but this won't save him from being deported as a Jew.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Friedhelm is very cynical about the entire war, and when he does open his mouth, it's usually to let everyone around him know. The snark wears off as the breaking sets in, however.
  • Death Seeker: Implied with Friedhelm; when a Russian bomber flies over the squad's position, his fellow soldier tells him to put his cigarette out. Instead, he takes a long, ostentatious drag.
  • Dirty Commies: A couple of the Wehrmacht soldiers have this attitude. One of them is just plain terrified of communists.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: When Friedhelm is abandoned behind enemy lines, he takes a dead Red Army soldier's uniform to sneak past the Soviets, but this results in him getting shot dead center by the Germans and he nearly dies from blood loss.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Nazi Germany versus the USSR. One of the Polish partisans puts it correctly;
    "The Germans think we're only fit to be slaves. The Russians won't be any different."
  • Fatal Family Photo: Lilija's family photo. Literally, because it has a flipping menorah in the background. Subverted though, as she turns up alive and heading a division of Russian soldiers near the end of the series.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Nazi Germany loses World War II.
  • Foreshadowing: When Friedhelm tells a Red Shirt "They have Siberian hunters who can hit a coin from 300 metres," you can probably guess what happens next.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Friedhelm grabs Wilhelm to tell him to pull himself together after the latter breaks down over the futility of their current mission during the Battle of Kursk (basically, keep advancing down this useless street until your whole unit is dead), because despite everything, they need a commander.
  • Home by Christmas: In the opening scenes, five friends have one last drink in Berlin. Two of them are leaving for service in Operation Barbarossa, one of them has volunteered to be a nurse on the front, another is an aspiring singer, and the last one is Jewish. They leave, hoping that by Christmas, Russia will be crushed and all of them will be reunited in that bar. The war ends four years later, Germany is defeated, and two of the friends don't make it back.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The three parts are respectively called A Different Time ("Eine andere Zeit"), A Different War ("Ein anderer Krieg"), and A Different Country ("Ein anderes Land").
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Aspiring actress Greta begins an affair with a Gestapo officer to protect her Jewish boyfriend. Later in the war she confronts him by revealing that he has gotten her pregnant and should provide for his out-of-wedlock child. He responds by beating her so severely that she miscarries, then has her arrested.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in the first episode when Hiemer shoots a little Jewish girl in the head.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: A very unwilling Captain Feigl does this to Wilhelm.
  • Interrupted Declaration of Love: Charlotte is about to tell the departing Wilhelm that she's in love with him, but is interrupted by a knock on the door from the Gestapo, of all people.
  • Jumped at the Call: Charlotte enthusiastically volunteers to become a nurse in the front line, genuinely believing that she can serve the country she loves in a just war.
  • Karma Houdini: Dorn ends up in the employ of the Allied administration after the war, and is ironically tasked with helping victims of Nazi persecution locate their relatives.
  • The Medic: Charlotte, Hildegard, Lilija, and the other nurses.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Tragically, Mr. Goldstein, a veteran of World War I who is a proud German and determined to remain loyal to his country even as the persecution of Jews intensifies.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Charlotte as a nurse at the Eastern Front. The freezing look that the chief nurse gives her speak for itself.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Wilhelm tells a superior officer that partisan activity has increased, and the officer drily replies "Thanks to our far-sighted policy of treating these people as inferiors."
  • Noble Demon: Wilhelm is pretty much okay with fighting an aggressive war of conquest and territorial expansion, and Captain Feigl has little difficulty convincing him to shoot Russian POWs, but on the other hand he's never pointlessly cruel, frequently goes into battle ahead of his men, and is genuinely horrified and outraged when Hiemer kills a Jewish child in front of him.
  • 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. Later on she gets so desensitized to the violence that it's Greta who reacts with horror to the carnage around her when she visits Charlotte during her tour.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Particularly given what they're fighting for, yeah.
  • Opening Narration: Wilhelm provides one at the beginning of each episode.
  • 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. When Frieldhelm returns for sick leave after a battle in which Wilhelm is believed to have died, their father barely conceals his wish that Friedhelm had died instead.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • When Wilhelm goes AWOL after a mental breakdown during a pointless battle, he retreats to an abandoned Russian cabin and spends his time catching fish and sitting around petting a cat.
    • SS-Sturmbannführer Hiemer makes a Ukraine mob let go of a Jewish girl when Wilhelm intervenes, then horribly subverted by shooting her in the head.
  • Previously On: The second and third parts have a brief recap with the title "Was bisher geschah" — "What happened before."
  • Rape as Backstory: Alina was repeatedly raped by the German farmer for whom she performed forced labour, giving birth to a girl who was taken away by the SS. When she decided to fight back against the farmer, she was immediately shipped off to Auschwitz.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Between them, the Russians and the Germans wreak all three.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Friedhelm snaps and mows down almost a dozen Russians when Wilhelm is apparently killed by one of them.
  • Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!: Seems to be the reasoning behind many of the soldiers' abandonment of their personal ideals when faced with the relentless carnage of the war.
  • 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.
    • The order to capture the telegraph station cost nearly all of Wilhelm's squad, and when Friedhelm finally reaches it via his Roaring Rampage of Revenge above, he enters a Heroic BSOD to find out that all that sacrifice was done for just one broken room.
  • Sex for Solace: When battle nurse Charlotte believes that her longtime friend and secret love Wilhelm has died in battle, she throws herself at her medical superior for comfort.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Greta is this for Viktor. His parents are less than amused - mostly because they fear him falling foul of the law.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Many to Band of Brothers. For example, Wilhelm gives a Russian POW One Last Smoke before he shoots them (though we actually see the execution this time around).
    • 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.
  • Snowball Fight: Brothers Friedhelm and Wilhelm, both Wehrmacht soldiers, engage in a snow fight on a quiet Christmas Eve at the Russian front, reminding them that they thought the war would soon be over so they could be Home by Christmas.
  • 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.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Greta and Viktor as a German and a Jew.
  • 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.
  • Token Minority: Viktor is the only Jew between the boys.
  • 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.
    • When Friedhelm tries to return to friendly lines after having gone missing in action he is non-fatally shot by his comrades because he was disguised in a Soviet uniform.
    • The brutal sergeant in the punishment battalion eventually gets stabbed by one of his own men.
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: Bartel has a noticeable stutter.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: SS-Sturmbannführer Hiemer. And eventually, Friedhelm, albeit reluctantly.

Alternative Title(s): Unsere Mutter Unsere Vater