My wife and I have just finished watching the recent eight-part German TV series penned by American writer Anna Winger (author of novel “This Must Be The Place”), titled “Deutschland ’83”.
Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay – “Summer Solstice”, “We Are Young, We Are Strong”) is a border guard in communist East Germany in 1983, where he lives with his mother Ingrid Rauch (Carina N. Wiese – “The Book Thief”, “Alarm Für Cobra 11”) and dates local girl Annett Schneider (Sonja Gerhardt – “Sin & Illy Still Alive”, “Stuttgart Homicide”).
The Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA), part of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) in East Germany, are tasked by Russian president Yuri Andropov and the Kremlin with finding out what plans the U.S. has for their new Pershing II missiles that are being located in West Germany.
Martin is asked by his aunt Lenora Rauch (Maria Schrader – “Lose My Self”, “In Darkness”) and her boss Walter Schweppenstette (Sylvester Groth – “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, “The Reader”) to go to West Germany undercover, using the codename Kolibri, to work for General Wolfgang Edel (Ulrich Noethen – “Downfall”, “Broken Glass Park” who is liaising with N.A.T.O. on the deployment of the missiles.
Unwilling to go, Martin finds himself drugged and spirited away to West Germany where he comes round to find he now has little choice other than to assume the identity of Moritz Stamm and become General Edel’s new aide-de-camp and report back to the HVA.
The situation is fraught with complications and dangers, not least the ever-escalating belief in the East that the U.S. is about to launch a nuclear strike against the U.S.S.R. from West Germany.
Along the way we meet a variety of characters who become important to the story in different ways including Martin / Moritz’s colleague (and son of the General) Alex Edel (Ludwig Trepte – “Out Of Hand”, “1864”), the General’s wayward daughter Yvonne Edel (Lisa Tomaschewsky – “The Girl With Nine Wigs”, “Hut In The Woods”) and Professor Tobias Tischbier (Alexander Beyer – “The Fifth Estate”, “Goodbye Lenin!”) who also works for the HVA.
Set against the real-life events leading to the nearest escalation to nuclear war in recent memory, lots of stock footage of news reports from the time, with a great eye for detail in the differences in culture and society between the East and the West, and with great use of hit singles from the era, we found this to be both entertaining and gripping.
It almost beggars belief that the world’s super powers could come so close to mutually assured destruction. And even though there may be some dramatic license taken – indeed this C.I.A. report seems to indicate that things were not a serious as the programme suggests – it makes for powerful viewing.
The series didn’t do as well in Germany as hoped, apparently, but has been pretty well received elsewhere, leading to the possibility of a follow-up series “Deutschland ’86” and even making it a trilogy with “Deutschland ’89”, the year the Berlin Wall was re-opened after twenty-eight years. I would certainly tune in, should that turn out to be the case. Great stuff…