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Film / Fatherland

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A 1994 Made-for-TV Movie produced by HBO and based on a 1992 novel by Robert Harris.

In 1964 — within an alternate timeline where the Nazis won World War II — Hitler invites U.S. president Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's father) to his 75th birthday celebrations, hoping to reach a détente that will help them finally win the ongoing war against partisans in Russia.

A dead body is found and Xavier March (Rutger Hauer), a good-natured police investigator, takes on what appears to be a simple murder case. Together with American Intrepid Reporter Charlotte Maguire (Miranda Richardson), they start digging deeper and discover that high ranking Nazi officials are being killed to protect the biggest secret of the war, the Final Solution, which has been kept hidden from the public for twenty years. March and Maguire's activities soon come to the attention of the Gestapo, meaning they must get the last evidence of the Final Solution to President Kennedy before it is lost forever.


This film contains examples of the following Tropes:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original novel concluded with Xavier March locked in an armed stand-off at the former Auschwitz camp site, and not knowing if Maguire will be able to deliver evidence of the Nazi war crimes to the Americans. The film provides a more conclusive ending when Maguire delivers the evidence in person to the visiting U.S. President Joseph Kennedy, who immediately calls off his meeting with Hitler. The ending narration by Xavier's grown-up son states that the Nazi state ultimately collapsed without U.S. support.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie simplifies the book's plot heavily, messes with historical fact a good deal and makes the ending more unambiguous.
  • Alternate-History Nazi Victory: The film, based on the Robert Harris novel, posits the same "Nazis Have Taken Over Europe And Are Now Engaged In A New Cold War With The Americans" world, though with a few changes (the point of divergence being a failed Normandy invasion rather than a more successful Caucasus Offensive) and a more hopeful ending for the protagonists.
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: March's son in the book was a nasty brat fully indoctrinated into the Third Reich, while in the movie he has a much warmer relationship with his father. While Pili turns on March, he does so out of naivete than malice, with March even telling him over the phone that his impending death wasn't Pili's fault. Pili narrating about the end of the Reich shows that he eventually rejected Nazism in his later years.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: March in the book was already a depressed, sullen, and ornery before he learned about the horrible truth about the Jews. March in the movie is far more optimistic and faithful about Germany, even defending its actions in wartime, at least until he learns about the horrible truth and becomes an enemy of the state.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Charlie delivers a whole series of them to make the enormity of the Holocaust sink in.
    Where are the Jews now? What was discussed at Wannsee? What happened at Auschwitz and... Belsen? What is Zyklon B?
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The German on some of the wallpapers, Hitler's signature on a framed photo, etc. Also, it's rather ironic that a lot of the furnishings seen in some of the appartments are very obviously from Communist era Czechoslovakia (which of course couldn't have existed in the movie's and book's verse).
    • A German soldier is shown with a bolt-action rifle instead of an Stg44 or maybe a G3 assault rifle. He's a ceremonial guard though, so it might be excused (such weapons handle better for drill movements).
    • The premise of Nazi victory is changed from the book, with a German victory during the 1944 Normandy invasion now cited as the sole turning point. Cue a facepalm from World War II buffs, who are usually a bit more aware of just how hopeless Germany's military situation was by the summer of 1944, successful D-Day landing or no.
    • The use of the Normandy landings as the point of divergence from actual history also ignores the fact that Reinhard Heydrich, a major if unseen player in the events of the film, had in real life been assassinated over two years prior to D-Day.
    • Even the geographic dimensions of the Nazi empire are peculiar, based on the map shown in the beginning. Basically all of continental Europe west of the Ukraine has been subsumed into an expanded German empire, when Nazi territorial ambitions in the west were always limited. Even when they had the chance, the only western lands they incorporated into the Reich were Luxembourg and Alsace-Moselle. Historians discovered that the Nazis did in fact desire to incorporate nations such as Norway and the Netherlands because of the racist nordic ideology inherent in Nazism, but one can only speculate whether countries such as Spain, Italy, France, or Greece wouldn't ultimately have been annexed into the Third Reich if they already controlled everything else (which they don't in this timeline). During the war the focus of Nazist expansionism was directed towards Eastern Europe because they believed the Slavs to be "an inferior race", and consequently thought it needed to be conquered, depopulated, and resettled with Germans, who were supposedly in need of "living space". The book follows these events correctly.
    • The sole fact that Welthauptsstadt Germania is shown littered with buildings such as the Arc of Triumph or the Grosse Halle. While Speer certainly drew up plans for those structures and Hitler supplied constant pressure to have them built, geological and physical feasibility studies (such as this Schwerbelastungskörper) quickly proved that Berlin's soil was too marshy to carry the weight of such monstrous structures, and - had they ever been built - they would have most likely just sunken in and collapsed, rendering the notion that these buildings would ever have stood for any number of years very unrealistic at best.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: Xavier gets the helps of a former girlfriend to help him with the case. When she's hauled in by the Gestapo, she hastens to explain that she barely knows Xavier.
    Gestapo agent: (consulting file) Do you often sleep with men you barely know?
  • Blackmail:
    Xavier: I was thinking of asking internal affairs...
  • Death by Adaptation: In the book, Winston Churchill is still alive in 1964 and living in exile in Canada. Here he is said to have died in 1953.
  • Disconnected by Death: Invoked. An already wounded March cycles to a phone booth to call Pili before his certain death to tell him that it wasn't his fault.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: March dies and Charlie is arrested by the Gestapo, but Kennedy got the proof of the Holocaust and cancelled his alliance with Hitler, whose regime later collapsed, as opposed to the novel, where Xavier manages to find the torn-down remnants of Auschwitz right before being killed by the Gestapo and Charlie possibly manages to board a plane back to the US with the documents before the end.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is an adaptation of the 1992 Robert Harris novel Fatherland.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Kind of. Rather the creepiest euphemism in movie history.
    Anna von Hagen: Will you finally do something about your Jews as we did with ours?
    Charlie: What did you do?
    Anna von Hagen: We put them into cattle cars and shipped them east. Always east!
    Charlie: To the Ukraine, you mean, to the resettlement camps.
    Anna von Hagen: Yeah, to resettle them... in the air!
    Charlie: Excuse me?
  • Government Conspiracy: In-universe, the biggest one in history.
  • He Knows Too Much: Anyone who knows the Awful Truth about the Final Solution is being killed off, now that the Third Reich is seeking détente with the United States.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    Xavier: I've been a loyal son of my fatherland. I served murderers all my life.
  • Heroic RRoD: The Eastern Front veterans in the house of the blind.
  • Historical Domain Character: Wilhelm Stuckart, Josef Buhler, Arthur Nebe and Odilo Globocnik (Globus) were all real Nazis. Franz Luther is based on the Nazi Martin Luther, but his name was apparently changed to avoid confusion with the Protestant reformer. Hitler and Joseph Kennedy both appear briefly at the end. Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph Stalin are mentioned but never seen.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The film: the 1960s Nazi uniforms are all obviously very out-of-place stock WW2 film props, which implies in-universe that the uniforms didn't change in the slightest for twenty years. Also, for some reason, every single outside shot seems to feature at least two separate groups of uniformed soldiers/paramilitaries/policemen/Hitler Youths walking by in the background, giving off the (very cartoonish) impression that in a 1960s Third Reich, one third of all Germans would only go outside in some kind of uniform.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Anna von Hagen when displaying her bitterness about failing in her acting career.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    (March and Charlie arguing about which side committed more war crimes during the war)
    Xavier: You dropped it on Japan twice.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Charlie.
  • Joggers Find Death: Not just death, but he's also a witness to the crime, which leads to his own death.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Implied, though not explicitly stated, by Anna von Hagen.
  • La Résistance: This is what becomes of the Soviet Red Army, continuously waging a guerrilla war well into the 60s, still led by the 85 year-old Joseph Stalin. They are secretly supported by the United States.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The death of SS cadet Jost Jr.
    Jäger: He was training at the gym, he fell, broke his neck.
    Xavi: No witnesses!?
    Jäger: No witnesses. The instructor said, he loved gymnastics.
    Xavi: I want an autopsy!
  • Mercy Kill: Pili is taught that people with disabilities should be killed on this basis. Xavier gently seeks to dispute this with a story of a disabled man who's revealed to really be an angel. This is the first sign that he's not on board with the Nazis entirely, and would be horrified at the Holocaust.
  • Narrator All Along: He's only heard at the beginning and at the end, but it's still notable to say that the narrator is Pili, the son of Xavier March.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Though all Nazis named in the film indeed existed, the character of Martin Luther got the given name Franz in the movie to avoid connotations to the other Martin Luther, the Protestant religious reformer. Joseph Kennedy also makes an appearance.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    Charlie: You threatened to drop the atomic bomb on Great Britain.
    March: You dropped it on Japan, twice.
    Charlie: We were fighting for our lives.
    March: So were we.
  • Oh, Crap!: The moment Xavier realizes that all the men who attended the Wannsee Conference have been murdered.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Joseph P. Kennedy is President.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Played completely straight with the ordinary police officers.
  • Putting on the Reich: The city of Welthauptstadt Germania, formerly known as Berlin. Nuff' said.
  • Released to Elsewhere: The Nazis covered up the Holocaust by claiming to have resettled the Jews in Ukraine. Possibly the creepiest admission of this trope occurs when Charlie visits an extremely antisemitic German woman who proudly reveals that her late lover Reinhard Heydrich had "resettled them in the air" (ash, you see).
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman:
    • After the failure of the D-Day invasion, General Eisenhower retired in disgrace.
    • As in the novel, Edward VIII was restored to the throne and reigns as King-Emperor with Wallis Simpson as his Queen Empress.
    • Winston Churchill died in exile in Canada in May 1953. This differs from the novel, which states that Churchill is still alive in April 1964 (the real Churchill died the next year).
  • Secret Police: The Gestapo is anywhere out there to fetch you.
  • Strong Empire, Shriveled Emperor: Hitler's Nazi Germany has conquered Europe, and he's still in charge twenty years later. While he never shows up in the book, at the end of the movie he turns up for a diplomatic meeting with the U.S. President in Berlin, showing him to be a feeble old man.


Video Example(s):



In this alternate history Germany, the protagonist is told about the Holocaust by way of euphemism.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DeadlyEuphemism

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