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The Guardian:BBC2 to air acclaimed German drama series Generation War


Aug 18 2013

A second world war drama dubbed a "German Band of Brothers" that sparked a national debate in Germany about ordinary people's role in the conflict has been bought by the BBC.

Generation War follows the lives of five young German friends between 1941 and 1945 and was watched by record audiences of more than 7 million viewers when it aired on German broadcaster ZDF. The three-part drama was described by Der Spiegel as a "turning point in German television", featuring explicit scenes of violence traditionally shied away from in German TV depictions of the war.

The BBC's head of programme acquisition Sue Deeks said the programme had a "truly epic sweep"."This is the first German series since Das Boot that has really tackled this subject matter and done it so well," she said. "What it does, as Band of Brothers did, is that it makes you look at the horror of war, and you see that depicted. You really do engage with the characters – you don't necessarily sympathise with them, at least not initially – and it has real emotional punch. It will have great breadth of appeal because everyone relates to the war."

Another German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, said the drama provided the "first and last chance ... to ask grandparents about their true biographies, their immoral compromises ... the missed chances to act – everything which, in masses, leads to catastrophe".

British viewers will now have the chance to watch the drama for themselves when it airs on BBC2 later this year.

The drama – its original German title, Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter, translates as "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" – focuses on the lives of two brothers who become Wehrmacht soldiers, along with a nurse who is in love with one of them, a singer who dreams of being the next Marlene Dietrich and her Jewish boyfriend. Most of it is set on the eastern front.

Unlike Band of Brothers, HBO's acclaimed 2001 mini series executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the characters in the German series are fictional. Once the home of subtitled German dramas such as Heimat and Das Boot, BBC2 will it will show its first foreign language series since 2001. Subtitled dramas have become mainstream since the success of Scandinavian dramas such as The Killing and The Bridge on BBC4. genChannel 4 recently showed the critically acclaimed French sci-fi drama, The Returned, the latest in a trend which can be traced back to Swedish detective series Wallander and French cop show The Spiral, which also aired on BBC4.