Revisiting the past: Deutschland 83

Even if the first few episodes have been a little breathless, the Cold War TV drama  from Germany has still made compelling viewing. Ned Richardson-Little — better known on Twitter as @historyned — applauds a series that breaks new ground:

Focusing simply on denouncing the crimes of the Stasi does little beyond reinforce existing preconceptions that East Germany was a brutal dictatorship. What is far more interesting, and where Deutschland 83 pushes the boundaries of historical depiction, is to try and see how such a system, the collapse of which seems so inevitable in retrospect, was able to survive for so long. By forcing the audience to sympathize with the terrible logic of the Stasi, Deutschland 83pushes the viewer to comprehend an alien past rather than stand smugly above it. Instead of distancing us from these figures and giving us a sense of superiority, we instead have to try and understand how someone could buy into the logic of an worldview so fully that they are willing to violate all notions of privacy, personal freedom, and even go to the brink of apocalyptic war. In doing so we have a chance to see the echoes of the past in the present, and not simply relegate institutions like the Stasi and its abuses to a safely buried past.

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