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All the fun of the Cold War: Deutschland 83


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#1 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 12:32 PM

How do you explain to someone what the world was like 35 years ago?

 

Even more challenging, how do you explain that to nearly two full generations of young Germans who have grown up in a united country with all of the freedoms that a western European democracy has to offer?

 

That question was the starting point for the husband and wife creative team of Anna and Jorg Winger when the wrote the German language miniseries Deutschland 83.

 

The richly filmed 8 episodes have it all: Pershing II missiles, Soviet paranoia that they were going to be hit with a first strike, East German spies infiltrating West Germany, East Germans watching East Germans, Americans pushing their agenda on NATO, Ronald Reagan, peace activists, ashram's and hippies, hazardous border crossings, shortages in the East, young people in love (both committed and casual), AIDS (with no cure at that time), TV news coverage with all of the latest scary headlines and music.  Lots and lots of music.

 

Despite, and not because of, the cover art, I picked up a copy, ironically, at the book store at the US Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth. Once I started, I watched the episodes back to back.

 

https://www.amazon.c...:deutschland 83

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#2 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 12:54 PM

To quote the dust jacket:

 

"Deutschland 83 is a groundbreaking new series from the producers of the international Emmy award-winning Generation War. It's 1983. The Cold War is hot. Russian SS20 Missiles in East Germany are already pointed West. American Pershing II Missiles will soon be placed in West Germany, pointing East. The threat of nuclear conflict looms.


Our hero, Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), is 23. Born and raised in East Germany, he is sent undercover, as Moritz Stamm, to West Germany, to work for a top General in the Bundeswehr. Officially, his job is to gather intelligence on the placement of the Pershing II Missiles. A secondary gig develops, infiltrating youth culture through close relationships with the General's two children. But nothing and no one are as they seem."

 

Martin is the reluctant hero.  He is already in service to the DDR, intercepting smugglers at the crossing points into Berlin.

 

He loves his ailing mother.  He loves his girl friend.  And then, without much of a choice, he is recruited to replace a Bundeswehr officer who was intercepted before he could report to work as a general's aid in the West.

 

Without giving away the plot, in the end Martin will be torn by loyalties on both sides of the border and has to decide where his highest calling belongs.

 

https://www.goethe.d...g/20702054.html

 

http://collider.com/...ance-tv-review/

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#3 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 12:56 PM

At first, he is ill prepared for his assignment.  A classic shot from the series shows him totally bewildered by the overflowing selection of goods in a common West German food market.

 

https://www.theguard...-deutschland-83

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#4 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 01:00 PM

But eventually, he is trained and moves forward with his mission to find out as much as he can about the proposed employment of the American Pershing II missiles.

 

I was in Germany in 1983.  The people on both sides of the wall were less than thrilled at the prospect of their respective towns and villages being flattened in a nuclear exchange between the Americans and the Soviets.   Neither of the major powers is portrayed in an overall positive mode with the Germans being caught in between.

 

Personifying the American side is Major General Arnold Jackson, who is tall and imposing, fluent in German, has a German wife (and mistress) and children, and apparently lives there over the long term.  He absolutely believes having American missiles will protect his adapted country, while the locals are somewhat more dubious.

 

https://www.hollywoo...-ratings-845744

 

https://www.haaretz....world-1.5404191

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#5 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 01:07 PM

The East German operatives are watching and listening to everything on both sides of the border, and actually have more information than they know what to do with.

 

The set directors took great care to insure authenticity.  If the scenes within Stasi headquarters look realistic, it is because they were filmed in the real location which is now a public museum.

 

Martin was recruited by his chain smoking aunt (something else we have forgotten from those times) who is shown on the left.

 

While James Bond may be entertaining, Deutschland 83 gives a much more realistic portrayal of how ordinary people were co-opted for to perform espionage for the state with the promise that they were serving the ultimate good and survival of their country.

 

https://mrspeabodyin...manist-and-fan/

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#6 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 01:13 PM

The interesting thing in watching this series is that we all know that World War III ultimately did not happen, at least not in the eighties.  

 

But the stories have come out on just how close we came.  Fiction that it is, Deutschland 83 will keep you in suspense right up to the end, both for the fate of its individual characters, and for the whole world.

 

**************

 

While the series is complete to itself, it was successful enough to spawn a sequel Deutschland 86 which continues with many of the same characters working in the shadows of the Cold War in Africa.  It is currently airing on Amazon.

 

Recently announced will be Deutschland 89, which will take the story up to the year that the Berlin Wall fell.

 

I saw it the first time around... I cannot wait to see it again!

 

https://deadline.com...nay-1201836235/

 

https://www.spectato...her-attractive/

 

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#7 gwb123

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 01:16 PM

And for those who enjoyed the music through out the series, a CD is available:

 

https://www.amazon.c...=deutschland 83



#8 The Meatcan

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 08:15 PM

Gil, I completely agree with you about Deutschland 83. It was an excellent series that didn't seem to get its due when first aired in the US. Have you been watching Deutschland 86?
Terry

#9 PaulR

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Posted 12 December 2018 - 08:39 PM

I saw the 1983 a few times on Amazon.  I love it.  I saw the first episode of 1986, but it did not keep me for some reason... does it get better?



#10 SARGE

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:29 AM

I have seen both series and thought they were excellent.  A very realistic view of the DDR as well as West Germany at the time IMHO.  Well worth viewing.



#11 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:12 AM

Interesting series, another one to add to my future viewing list.

 

As an aside, has anyone been watching Babylon Berlin set during the period of the Weimar Republic?  Another excellent German series with 2 seasons produced and a third now in post.



#12 SARGE

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 10:56 AM

Interesting series, another one to add to my future viewing list.

 

As an aside, has anyone been watching Babylon Berlin set during the period of the Weimar Republic?  Another excellent German series with 2 seasons produced and a third now in post.

 

Yes, I watched it and thought it was excellent.  They really got the period Berlin Police uniforms and equipment right.  The time of the Weimar Republic was chaotic and this series certainly illustrates the anything goes attitude.  If you thought that the "Roaring Twenties" was wild viewing this series about the "anything goes" attitude in Berlin will change your mind about what "wild" is.  



#13 gwb123

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:42 PM

Gil, I completely agree with you about Deutschland 83. It was an excellent series that didn't seem to get its due when first aired in the US. Have you been watching Deutschland 86?
Terry

 

Terry,  I have to check, but I don't believe we have Sundance as a cable channel.  So no, I have not seen '86 as yet.

 

I am hoping eventually it will be on Netfix.



#14 gwb123

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:53 PM

I have seen both series and thought they were excellent.  A very realistic view of the DDR as well as West Germany at the time IMHO.  Well worth viewing.

 

I am betting when they do the third segment set in '89 with the fall of the Berlin Wall it will be really interesting.

 

The two halves of the divided country waited for that for so long, and then when it came around the question was "What's next?"

 

I remember a story about tradesmen in the former East Germany who were stunned to learn they were expected to buy their own tools after unification.  The new capitalist economy was quite a shock for some.

 

(Photo:  Berlin Wall exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force)

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#15 gwb123

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 07:54 PM

 

Yes, I watched it and thought it was excellent.  They really got the period Berlin Police uniforms and equipment right.  The time of the Weimar Republic was chaotic and this series certainly illustrates the anything goes attitude.  If you thought that the "Roaring Twenties" was wild viewing this series about the "anything goes" attitude in Berlin will change your mind about what "wild" is.  

 

I started it, and really need to get back to it.  I am sure it was fully researched for authenticity.  What I found shocking was the treatment and disregard of shell shocked veterans as "weaklings".



#16 AB45

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Posted 14 December 2018 - 12:48 PM

1983! You can not explain that! No Internet. 4 TV channels and nothing else.
The US Army in every corner, the inner German border and this stupid GDR.
And yes, Blue Monday from New Order was the hit. Berlin, London, Paris or the Frankfurt afterlife has been more interesting to us than a war with the Warsaw Pact.


#17 Josef

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:58 AM

As one that escaped from East Germany with my parents and sister and came to U.S. as refugees I can say that much of the series is correct. I was there when the wall came down with my wife and mother and a week later was able to travel for the first time to East Germany and see family members after 40 years. We spent 3 months there in East Germany, visiting areas, towns and villages that many were a step back to WW2. Buildings and sites that still showed the ravages of the war. A church were the bell laid on the floor and the roof showed were an unexploded bomb had come through.

As to the feelings of being free, united again, etc. Many East Germans had fears, they were use to living suppressed and being provided for. Their savings, little they had was worth nothing. Dispute on who owned property or businesses now was in array. Lost titles to farms and homes which the government had taken. Many older people were put on early retirement to give the younger populations jobs. In many small towns there was still only one phone, at the post office. People still lived in fear, windows and doorways with metal shutters lowered at dark, (even 4 years later this was still the custom). I could go on and on, on what it was like in the 50s, and during and after what it was like. Some is factual in the series, but also much is made and shown for dramatic effects.

One thing that was hard for my mother was that looking for her brothers graveside and not finding it since the communist had destroyed any gravestones that had a swastika symbol on it. He was shot down February 18, 1944. It wasn't till 2014 that a group dedicated to find lost gravesites of German Soldiers of WW2 and marking same that his was found and verified. But, too late for my mother, she passed away in 2008. Never knowing were her brother laid, they were close, they were twins.

Sorry if I bored anyone, but no film, book, or TV show can or ever will show how it really was to live in those times. 



#18 gwb123

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 09:31 AM

As one that escaped from East Germany with my parents and sister and came to U.S. as refugees I can say that much of the series is correct. I was there when the wall came down with my wife and mother and a week later was able to travel for the first time to East Germany and see family members after 40 years. We spent 3 months there in East Germany, visiting areas, towns and villages that many were a step back to WW2. Buildings and sites that still showed the ravages of the war. A church were the bell laid on the floor and the roof showed were an unexploded bomb had come through.

As to the feelings of being free, united again, etc. Many East Germans had fears, they were use to living suppressed and being provided for. Their savings, little they had was worth nothing. Dispute on who owned property or businesses now was in array. Lost titles to farms and homes which the government had taken. Many older people were put on early retirement to give the younger populations jobs. In many small towns there was still only one phone, at the post office. People still lived in fear, windows and doorways with metal shutters lowered at dark, (even 4 years later this was still the custom). I could go on and on, on what it was like in the 50s, and during and after what it was like. Some is factual in the series, but also much is made and shown for dramatic effects.

One thing that was hard for my mother was that looking for her brothers graveside and not finding it since the communist had destroyed any gravestones that had a swastika symbol on it. He was shot down February 18, 1944. It wasn't till 2014 that a group dedicated to find lost gravesites of German Soldiers of WW2 and marking same that his was found and verified. But, too late for my mother, she passed away in 2008. Never knowing were her brother laid, they were close, they were twins.

Sorry if I bored anyone, but no film, book, or TV show can or ever will show how it really was to live in those times. 

 

Thank you for your comments and first hand experiences.  

 

I visited Berlin around 1981 and stood by the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie.  I remember distinctly thinking "This is never coming down in my lifetime."  Nothing pleased me more to find out I was wrong.  

 

I had an NCO who worked for me who had family in the East.  The authorities in East Germany made it very difficult and very expensive for him to visit, just to see his relatives.  Along with visa fees, he also had to purchase Ost Marks in some ridiculous amount for each day or week that he stayed there at the official 1 to 1 rate.  He still went through with the visit, but it was really striking how onerous this was.  I am sure his story was repeated many hundred times over.



#19 Josef

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 09:52 AM

Then you also knew that besides Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, there were many other checkpoints along the borders of East and West, one on our way to my home village was 3 years later a Purple Martin Gas Station. Also what many didn't know and wasn't communicated very well to the public was the security set up along the borders outside Berlin. Many made their escapes through these, and these were many times as dangerous as going over or under the wall. Towers placed along borders, with wire alarms and trip wires set up. Between wires patrolled 24/7 by guards and dogs. Some areas were even mined. It was far North that we discovered guards were more lax, be it the harsh winter, or was it luck we were not discovered crossing? My father for years afterwards would say that winter we left, was as bad as his time on the Eastern Front.

Thanks for your insight, and service.



#20 PaulR

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Posted 24 February 2019 - 08:46 PM

Then you also knew that besides Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, there were many other checkpoints along the borders of East and West, one on our way to my home village was 3 years later a Purple Martin Gas Station. Also what many didn't know and wasn't communicated very well to the public was the security set up along the borders outside Berlin. Many made their escapes through these, and these were many times as dangerous as going over or under the wall. Towers placed along borders, with wire alarms and trip wires set up. Between wires patrolled 24/7 by guards and dogs. Some areas were even mined. It was far North that we discovered guards were more lax, be it the harsh winter, or was it luck we were not discovered crossing? My father for years afterwards would say that winter we left, was as bad as his time on the Eastern Front.

Thanks for your insight, and service.

 

Thank you so very much for sharing your personal accounts.  How old were you when you and your family departed East Germany?  What was your most significant personal memory of life in the DDR?



#21 Josef

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 04:16 AM

There are something's one wishes to forget. I was 9.

My father and his squadron flew their planes to surrender to British (UK). Word had gotten back from the invasion on that many Germans that surrendered were shot, rather then taken prisoners when they surrendered. So they felt better in March surrendering themselves and their planes to UK units.

My dad was held a prisoner till 46. Though he was released in West Germany he walked by foot into Russian held East Germany to be with us. Of course things were bad, no job and survival was hard. Many times, and even years later all we had to eat was potatoes. We were always hungry.  Dad would catch a rabbit and it was a feast. He and several others would work cutting trees for firewood for heating and cooking in exchange for food or chance to pick over fields for left over vegetables. I remember dad coming back one night past curfew and was accosted by the Russians and beaten. Many nights, and days, but mostly nights we were awaken during the night and made to stand outside, rain, snow, cold, made no difference, while they searched the house for anything that was illegal. Newspapers, magazines or a radio that wasn't authorized. Its hard to convey what it was like. How does one explain being hungry, cold, and yes scared.

Once we escaped to the West and the Refugee program was opened. The Catholic Church and a sponsor, a farmer in Witchert, Illinois helped us come to the USA.

Conveying fear?  Maybe this will help explain how it was for me. When we were picked up at the train station by the farmer and his wife who sponsored us and drove us to the small house that the farmer had for hired hand. It was night and when we came into house, they turned all the lights on, when they did that I ran and pulled all the blinds down by instinct. My father then said to me, "son, you don't have to do that anymore, we're in America now".   Its something that I will never forget, what he said, and what it meant.




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