by Steve Lancaster 10/2/18
This is a Netflix series that has all the elements to be a failure. Somehow it succeeds in every venue. The series is long, 16 episodes. It is in German with subtitles, it has a train full of gold, Communists, Nazis, Weimar Republic, German nationalists, drugs, criminal underground, sex and corrupt police.
The series is set in the last hurrah of the Weimer Republic the summer of 1929. After the years of runaway inflation during the early post-war, Germany has stabilized its economy. Unemployment is still high and living standards for the lower classes are grim but improving. We know that the sword of Damocles is resting above their heads and the horrors of the next 16 years will destroy the German world, but they don’t.
Social conditions and politics are at fever pitch. Everyone knows the elderly and senile Hindenburg is deteriorating and there is no accepted replacement in the mix. The communists and nationalists are plotting separate coups to bring down the republic and institute either a worker’s regime or bring back the monarchy. Into this mix is Gereon Rath, (Volker Bruch) sent from Cologne to Berlin to find some pictures that are embarrassing to his father. Gereon is a skilled detective and since his father is the mayor of Cologne, he is given status in the police world.
During an arrest of a pornographer, Gereon becomes aware that there is more going on than prostitution and porno. On 1 May Communists are planning a major protest.
Gereon reports to his boss and receives assignment to continue to investigate into the threats posed to the republic by the communists and nationalists. Gereon enlists a young woman, Charlotte Ritter, (Liv Lisa Fries) working as a clerk to assist him. Charlotte supplements her income at a club owned by local organized crime as a hostess, a part time prostitute. A distinction the very uptight Rath would find compromising.
At the same time a train arrives in Berlin, bound for Istanbul full of phosphate gas intended to be used by nationalists when they overthrow the government. Death follows the train. The original crew is executed outside of Berlin. When authorities open one of the cars looking for contraband they release gas and kill several people. Charlotte, acting on her own discovers the true intent of the train and its golden treasure.
In the meantime, Gereon and his partner, Bruno Wolter (Perter Kurth) are investigating a mass murder of Trotskyites in the woods outside Berlin. The leader of the Trotskyites, Svevtlana Sorokina, (Severija Janusauskaite) claims to be the sole survivor of a rich Russian oligarch. The gold on the train is her family fortune. Carefully hidden during the revolution and civil war.
Primitive ballistics determine that the weapons used, were of Russian manufacture and were the property of the Soviet Embassy. By this time everyone seems to want the train sent back to Russia, but no one wants to order it. The nationalists learn of the gold on the train, as do the criminal mob. The nationalists plan to hijack the train as it slowly makes its way out of Berlin. The mob is going to hijack the nationalists and the gold
That is a short plot summary and by far not everything involved. I admit it takes a couple of episodes to get a hang of the flow. We know that in October of 29 the entire house of cards the Weimar Republic is built on is going to collapse with the stock market. The most positive element of this series is the sets. Someone must have raided every antique car show in Germany. The cars set the background in every episode, also the buildings, some are rebuilt after the war, others are CG but the feeling of being in Berlin during the summer of 1929 is well done. There is some foreshadowing of the impending horrors yet to come.
If your German is very good, you can watch this without translation or subtitles. The German to English translation is awkward. A lot of the German has slang and the English translation is terrible. However, if you go with English subtitles the translation is excellent and conveys both intention and emotion. On the whole, this is a very good series and worth the time. • (91 views)