Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Generation War" Discussion at Amazon

Blog readers may be interested in a discussion of "Generation War" taking place under Polish-American poet John Guzlowski's Amazon review of the production, link here.


  1. I will not post this on Amazon.

    Every nation has the right to tell the history of it's country and it's people. But any nation loses that right when it invades other country and enslaves other people. From that moment that nation turns from author into subject. Invaded and enslaved will be the ones to write the story.

    I will use an example.

    Years ago former officer of Wehrmacht told his daughter a story about his "sojourn" in occupied Poland. He told how he was befriended with locals. With one family in particular. After his passing his daughter wanted to rekindle relationship with those Poles. So she wrote a letter. It started with words:
    "Dear Ulma family..."
    That officer's name was Eilert Dieken.


    1. Lukasz, just curious, why not post it on Amazon? Not trying to give you a hard time. Just curious.

    2. I believe that Poles with poor grasp of English shouldn't take part in such discussions.
      My countrymen often do that. They make mistakes. English speakers ridicule them. They call us "Borats" and "Pollacks".
      Our message is lost amid the laughter.

      We need Polonians to spread the story.
      Or someone will rewrite it.

    3. Hi, Lukasz, I think the key thing is humility. I think if someone says, "English is a second language for me. I may make mistakes. Please be patient," I think any decent person would cut the speaker some slack.

      When people post messages that are full of errors and also belligerent and arrogant, that is insufferable.

      So please do speak. As long as you speak with sincerity and humility and truth, anyone who gives you a hard time shames him or herself.

  2. Hi Danusha

    Since Ii'm not on Amazon, perhaps you'd like to do me a great favour and post the following reply under Stephen Stult's first comment?

    Michal Karski

    Complex movie? In what way complex? Just because it had a convoluted - and mostly implausible - plot line, more suitable for a soap opera than a serious film exploring serious issues? Mr Guzlowski's review is spot- on and pithy.

    As Ms Goska mentions below, there are plenty of fair reviews out there and quite a few negative ones. ZDF deserves credit for tackling some important issues, such as the former Nazis employed by the Americans (a cigar-chomping stereotype BTW), but, generally speaking, the protagonists are presented as likeable people, at least initially of course (and in fairness to ZDF, their descent into hell is presented credibly, and indeed seems to me to be the point of the series), but the mistake is to make this atypical bunch of friends (a Jew among them? In 1941? Really? Even being greeted with "Shalom" by his great friend the Wehrmacht officer?) seem as if they represent the average German of the day.

    There are so may questions this series raises: why does the war only start in 1941? Why is Viktor friendly with Wilhelm, who, if not necessarily personally responsible for the deaths of Jews in Poland during the September 1939 campaign, would most certainly have at least witnessed the barbarity of the invasion? Why is the bigos-eating Polish resistance so brutal that they are prepared to sacrifice whatever Christians there may be in the freight cars simply because they hate Jews so much?

    I have read some of your other reviews, Mr Stults, and they seem mostly clear-headed and fair. But I believe you're mistaken if you think this is a serious examination of the German psyche. The five young protagonists are presented as victims of the Nazi system, even if some, like Charlotte, start out as willing participants. No doubt there were indeed people who were caught up in the machine against their better inclinations. But these five young people seem more like present-day liberal, multi-cultural young Germans who have unaccountably travelled backwards in time to find themselves surrounded by alien Nazis. By labelling the series "Our Mothers, Our Fathers", the producers are presenting them as typical of the time, when this could patently not have been the case. The German tendency - understandable though it may be - has been to highlight the undoubted fact that there were, indeed, those (few) who opposed the Nazis, but even a brilliant film like "Das Boot" essentially says that fanatical Nazis were the generally unwelcome exceptions in any military formation. The Germans who were not fanatical Nazis were certainly terrorised into accepting Nazi rule - they had little choice if they wanted to live and prosper - but there is no sense in this film of the overwhelming enthusiasm for Hitler which was an ingredient behind the initial military successes of the Third Reich.

    The Polish element of the film is troubling, to put it mildly. The Armia Krajowa is shown as being even more anti-Semitic than the Nazis themselves. No sane person would deny that anti-Semitism existed in Poland - but the scenes in Poland do look like a subtle attempt to spread a bit of the blame onto barbaric Eastern neighbours. As John notes above, where was the Holocaust? There was no mention of genocide as such or references to the death camps. The closest allusion was the freight car packed with prisoners. Viktor, by the way, was more likely to have been held and then gassed at Sachsenhausen near Berlin at the time given than to have been sent to Poland.

    A final question: by leaving out any references to battles against the Americans or the British and focussing instead on an anonymous Russian enemy, the series does rather look like an attempt to appeal to the English-speaking market. To paraphrase John Guzlowski: "no Americans or Brits were harmed during the making of this film".

    1. Hi, Michal, I posted it. Again, not trying to give you a hard time, but why not get an Amazon account?

    2. Thanks for posting. As for Amazon - fair enough question but the answer is my wife has an account so I don't need a separate one and also I don't really want to get her involved in my cyber-battles.

      Sorry to read about your sis, BTW.

    3. The only quibble I'd have with John's review is the word "nazification". Since the Nazis are obviously shown as evil, then perhaps a better word might be "revision" or "distortion".

  3. The discussion here, and on Amazon, though alluding to the dilution of guilt of the Germans and the customary de-Germanization of the Nazis, needs to focus on the fact that Nazi-style thinking did not begin with Hitler, and is in fact deeply rooted in the German soul.

    As examples:

    Teutonic mythology and the glorification of war (Odin, and Valhalla)

    The FUROR TEUTONICUS at the time of the Romans

    The centuries of DRANG NACH OSTEN

    The Teutonic Knights

    The German genocide of much of the original peoples of Prussia and Gdansk

    Frederick the Great

    The German-planned Partitions of Poland

    The onerous forced de-Polonization of Prussian-ruled Poles

    Bismarck's KULTURKAMPF

    von Buelow and his even-more-savage anti-Polish policies.

    The HAKATA

    Von Buelow


    Soon after 1918, the Seeckt-Soviet project for a renewed Partition of Poland

    The hostility to Poland showed by the Weimar Republic

    Hitler, WWII, and the impending extermination of the Polish UNTERMENSCHEN

    Eric Honecker, "more Communist than the Soviets", and his efforts to keep Poland under the Soviet heel.

    And much more...

    1. Hello Mr Peczkis,
      Your list is a little too polono-centric. I sugest a little more diversity. In present times there's nothing more evil than white men killing people of different race. You could add to that list the genocide of Herero and Namaqua. And let's not forget those "punitive expeditions" in China. Great way to mark the beginning of 20th century.

  4. You are absolutely right, Lukasz.

    In fact, I wrote a review of the KAISER'S HOLOCAUST a few years ago. This genocide was the pre-Nazi German extermination of a large part of the Hottentot peoples of present-day Namibia. To see my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.

    1. Jan makes some interesting observations (as usual) about German history but I'd say that, from my perspective, the Germans, on the whole, should be commended for their attitude towards their own recent past. They have had an enviable model democracy since the war and are, generally speaking, a welcoming and generous society. There will always be exceptions, of course. The neo-Nazis are active in Germany as elsewhere and there are the occasional old-school unreconstructed diehard Nazi sympathisers whose attitudes, much like the Stalin-worshipping Russian nationalists, are beyond shifting. There was a documentary shown recently on UK TV about Himmler (mass-murderer and devoted family man), for instance, in which we were told that his daughter still cherishes his memory and runs a "Odessa File" type of organisation which helps old Nazis. But at least the Germans have, by and large, attempted to come to terms with their history, unlike some other nations.

      I wouldn' go as far as John when he talks about "Generation War" being a 'nazification' of history. It is revisionism or a distortion, as I said, but there is no Nazi triumphalism; on the contrary the Nazis are clearly shown as evil, but the problem lies elsewhere.

      Ther series cannot be accused of any attempt to justify Nazi crimes, but its main failing is, I believe, the unwillingness directly to confront the worst single excess of the Third Reich: i.e. The Holocaust.

      This not the same thing as Holocaust denial. The action of a film like "Das Boot" which I mentioned earlier, with its mostly confined, indeed, claustrophobic environment, does not pretend to present a panoramic vision of the war, whereas "Generation War", even if we accept the omission of the years 1939 - 1941, does try and present virtually the entire eastern front, Poland included. So why no depiction of the death camps?

      There is an allusion to Auschwitz, if I remember rightly, provided by a caption at one point, but ZDF are assuming that a reference will be enough for the viewer: that everyone knows what enormous horrors are hidden behind this name. This is a huge mistake, in my opinion. What about a hypothetical fourteen-year old TV viewer in Illionois or Lagos or Melbourne or Rio who might be watching this and who is seduced by the riveting 'Saving Private Ryan' style action sequences? As a war movie it is undoubtedly successful in its portrayal of the horrors and brutality of battle. The problem is what would such a hypothetical viewer take away from all this? I wrote on another site that, unfortunately, and without my meaning to sound condescending or elitist, many viewers will get their history from the TV rather than books. It is a mistake on the part of ZDF to assume any prior knowledge of the Holocaust on the part of every viewer. Their argument may well be that many other worthy German films have already dealt with the subject. But such a glaring omission cable interpreted, and indeed is being interpreted by many people, as a deliberate downplaying of a horror which many people are still trying to get to grips with.

      On balance, ZDF should be given credit, despite their clumsy and, frankly, offensive portrayal of the Poles, for an attempt at confronting the war years. But given the astronomical number of the victims of the Nazi regime, it is not such an easy thing to try and put a human face on Hitler's army.

      If I were reviewing this for Amazon, I'd probably be generous and give it three out of five but say:"must try harder".

    2. Michael Stephen Stults pays you a high compliment on Amazon ;-)

    3. He recommends some more interesting reading material. My reading list is starting to resemble a small-sized book in itself. When will I read all these books? I wonder if J. Peczkis can tell me how he manages to get through all those volumes? Have a good weekend, Danusha. Must go and read a book.

  5. To answer Michal's question, I have a passion for reading, and had it since I was a child. At the present time, I have 2,080 Amazon reviews.

    I think that German repentance over Nazism must be kept in perspective. The Germans lost the war. To be accepted by the other nations, they had to disown Nazism. It was a public-relations necessity. Of course, some repentance was sincere. Even then, how much was German sorrow over the sufferings to others caused by German actions, and how much was German sorrow over the shame of Germany?

    It does not necessarily impress me that hard-core Nazis, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, etc., are rare in today's Germany. The issues run much deeper than that. Besides, as GENERATION WAR MAKES abundantly clear, residual German revisionism can be subtle, but that does not make it any less real.

    The common de-Germanization of the Nazis smacks of a German-whitewash mentality. It clearly facilitates the relativization of German crimes. The de-Germanization of the Nazis causes me to question the extent and sincerity of German repentance.

    Lately, the Germans have been saying and writing a lot about Polish anti-Semitism--and not just in GENERATION WAR. This smacks of a resurrection of old German chauvinism against Poles. I find it especially ironic of Germans--of all people--portraying Poles as anti-Semites. This smacks of Germans trying to ever-so-subtly relativize their past exterminatory anti-Semitism. This German conduct especially causes me to question the extent and sincerity of German repentance over Germany's evil past.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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