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Author Topic: Babylon Berlin
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 14:02
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I had posted the following elsewhere and included some new comments at the end. But I wanted to start a proper thread about this Netflix Original series:

I’m watching a series right now that is set in 1926 Berlin (or at least it picks up in that year): Babylon Berlin. I’m ten episodes in the 16-episode first season (the only season that is available on Netflix at the moment). Mr. Kung should watch this if he gets a chance. There’s a lot of interesting insights into German life at the waning moments of the Weimar Republic and just before the economic crash of 1929. (I assume this is the year it happens in Germany. We haven’t quite caught up with that event yet.)

Here we see the Stalinists battling the Trotskyites. We see the decadence of Berlin night clubs. We see old (and young) military-minded men longing to erase the sting of The Great War. We see people living bad and brutal lives in poverty. We see the disruption caused by foreigners. (Perhaps more than a few Russians and Slavs, all who seem atuned to marching the streets for "free stuff".)

And I’ll be frank. I think this series does, for those attuned to thinking, give one an insight as to why Nazism was so appealing. It’s not that democracy was weak, per se, although I assume the poor handling of the Communist insurgency certainly made the republica look week. I just get the general sense that the Germans in the 1920’s were not ready to become brainless Communists. They still had a belief in themselves, battered though it was by the loss in The Great War.

We see (as in our own nation today) the chipping away at German families, at their honor, and at just a shared sense of decency (especially the German work ethic). And then when the crash comes, a chipping away at traditional German industriousness. Anyone promising to bash the heads of the Communists and to restore German honor (and economic vibrancy) would have had a large following.

That anti-semitism got wrapped up in Nazism is a shame, although it’s not that Jews were blameless. There were patriotic Jews who had fought in The Great War and considered themselves as German as anyone else, despite their last name. And yet, like now, there was an elite who were chipping away at the Christian/Western foundations, and self-consciously so.

This series centers around the drug-addicted (a real sign of the Zeitgeist) Vice Detective Gereon Rath who is on special assignment from Köln. (I won’t tell you what that assignment is, but it definitely has something to do with vice). And Rath has no problem finding vice in Berlin.

I think Steve would appreciate this series but I’m reticent to give this series an outright thumbs-up. It’s a little creepy, a little pornographic, and the plot is somewhat slow to develop. But eventually everyone has made some side deal to spy on someone else.

Rath is, by the standards of the day, an honest and hard-working detective, as is his partner, Bruno Wolter. Charlotte Ritter is the necessary “I am woman, hear me roar” female protagonist. She lives with her poor extended (and quite degraded) family getting jobs where she can (including a little vice now and then). She takes up some temporary work at the police station which mushrooms into prospects for something more. Overall, she is a good character and, despite the fact that she is a demographic insertion, works well in this series so far.

But this series gives you some insights to what the unraveling of a society can mean and what it can be caused by. But note there is no overt preaching going on. But the series does seem to be a realistic look at that time period. And knowing what comes after, you can see the significance of the events as they play out.

Additional: One thing that bugs me about this series is that the Communists are being made to look like victims. Granted, I don’t know that the events portrayed aren’t true. But I suspect it’s a selected part of the story.

Berlin has verboten public gatherings by Communists. (Details are sketchy about the exact law in place.) A gathering is planned by the Communists and the police, including a couple members of vice (including our main guy, Gereon Rath), are sent to a particular district to do a house-to-house search for illegal guns.

While doing the search, a police armored car rolls down the street and begins firing indiscriminately upon passersby and the houses to each side of the street. Rath and his partner happen to be inside one house on the second floor. Two women go out to the balcony behind the raising of a large red communist banner. Bullets spray everywhere and the two are killed. This sets up a protracted story arc of the wronged Communists. (I wouldn't have shot them down in cold blood, but I certainly would have had to think about it for a moment first.)

Communists are shown as being passive and peaceful. I don’t know whether they will expend out from this narrative. It’s hard to know whether the film producers mean this to be a complimentary portrayal of the Communists, but many of them do come off as overly radical and a bit subversive and creepy. However, that is how a typical Leftist crowd in America appears to me, so this might be the producers thinking this is a positive portrayal of these bastards. (I do hate Communists of all types, I must say.)

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 14:42
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From the end of WWI, i.e. November 1918 until about 1923, there was a great amount of civil unrest in Germany. The forces of International Communism fought German Nationalists.

One only needs to look up Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg to understand what type of people controlled the Left. These two, with Klara Zetkin formed the "Spartacus League", (Spartacus Bund) which changed its name to the Communist Party of Germany. They took an active part in the Spartacus Uprising in Berlin which took place in early 1919. This uprising was against a moderate socialist. They were opposed by some in the military and the so-called "Freikorps" (Free Corps).

Karl and Rosa quickly lost and were dispatched with extreme prejudice.

A similar story took place in Bavaria where leftists established the "Bavarian Soviet Republic." They too were dispatched shortly after establishing their republic.

There were running battles between the Commies and Nationalists for several years. Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch took place in late 1923. From that experience, and about a year in Landsberg prison, he learned that while having a bunch of thugs was handy to rough up leftists, it wasn't enough to take over the reins of government. He kept the thugs, but changed his tactics.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 15:02
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Thanks for that background, Mr. Kung.

In this series it talks about a secret German military force that includes some top war heroes. They are trying to get around some of the restrictions of Versailles. Included in its ventures is supposedly a secret aircraft base a hundred and fifty miles or so south of Moscow. The Russians are said to be collaborating in this because they want to learn how to build airplane engines.

Rath, and a photographer he has recruited, plans to be airdropped in to do a little reconnaissance. He is to gather more physical evidence before the Berlin prosecutor makes some arrests. Is this purely fanciful or does this coincide with anything that really happened?

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 15:11
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Every, post Versailles-Treaty, German government went about trying to break the treaty's requirements on anything to do with the military.

I don't remember a specific secret aircraft base, but it could be possible as the Soviets cooperated with the German military quite a bit. Heinz Guderian, among others, staged large tank war maneuvers in the Soviet Union in the 1920's or 1930's. The Soviets were quite happy to oblige the Germans with plenty of space away from the Allies' prying eyes.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 15:16
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Okie doke. Thanks. If the Soviets assisted in tank maneuvers it is not a stretch regarding having a German airfield in Russian territory...even if the specifics aren't exact.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 15:30
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The armored maneuvers were at Kazan and the air maneuvers were at Lipetsk, and lasted until 1933. I think you can guess why they ended. The Beer Hall Putsch was November 9 (I think), 1923. One of the more serious assassination attempts against Hitler happened exactly 16 years later.

The Communists were certainly involved in inter-party conflict, especially in Berlin, but I don't know the specifics. Much later, one of these little conflicts led to the death of storm trooper Horst Wessel, and the Nazis used his name as a martyr honored by the Horst Wessel Lied. (They wanted to use that in the song duel in Casablanca, but the Nazi Party had the copyright and would have had to be paid royalties for it in neutral countries. There was no copyright for "Die Wacht am Rhein", which they used instead.

There was a game I played a few times called Der Führer which dealt with 1932 German politics. You had the various parties and various (mostly leftist) party platforms. Every one of them had "anti-Versailles" as an issue.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 20:40
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and the air maneuvers were at Lipetsk, and lasted until 1933.

That is the city referred to in the series for the air base. They just flew over it and shot a few photographs. Thanks for the further background info. Very interesting.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 21, 2018, 20:46
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As I recall from reading a book about the raids on Ploesti (including the first US penetration of Fortress Europe, the tiny Halpro raid in June 1942), the German air commander in Romania, Alfred Gerstenberg, had taken part in the Lipetsk operations.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 23, 2018, 14:35
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Going full 1920’s Kraut, today I purchased the mp3 version of the Babylon Berlin Soundtrack.

It’s comprised of 34 songs and would appear to be an eclectic mix of songs (and obviously what the series features as well). I don’t have a solid opinion on it yet. It will take a while to give it a listen through.

From first listen, "Meine Rose" has a nice sound to it. I don't know if this is an old traditional Kraut song or not. Maybe Mr. Kung knows. You can sample 30 seconds of it from that Amazon link.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Babylon Berlin
on: February 23, 2018, 14:46
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Well, that sample was a bit loud and brassy. I wonder if it was by Wagner. If so, Hitler probably liked it.

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