Cold War Point of View

I've now watched two episodes of Deutschland83 and I find myself once again blogging about it. That is to the show's credit - it has me thinking. The writing was once again crisp, the acting nuanced and sharp, and the production was first rate. What I found most interesting this time around was my realization that the story is told from a German, East and West, point of view that is quite different from my own experience in the Cold War. So far in the series the points of view of Western Europeans and Americans are official in nature and only important insofar as they relate to Germany's position on strategic Cold War issues. Additionally, unless I have missed something, the Soviet point of view has been absent except for references by others as to what the Soviets would or would not do in response to actions from the West. The contrast with my own experience could not be clearer.

I know this will sound arrogant, but my outlook during my three years in Berlin (1983-1986) was that the Germans were not much more than background for the main contest between the Soviet Union and the United States. That contest, and my part in it, just happened to be playing itself out on German soil. The fact that Berlin was still an occupied city during the 1980s may have something to do how my view developed. Another certain factor is that my training for two years before going to Berlin was focused entirely on the Soviet Union. I'm talking about a year and a half of intense Russian language training which included studying Russian and Soviet culture, all of which was taught almost exclusively by Russian immigrants, followed immediately by six months of learning about the capabilities, habits, order of battle, etc., of the Soviet Army.

Look, it's not as if the Germans were invisible to me. After all, I'd studied German for four years in high school, visited Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg as a teenager in 1975, and specifically targeted getting stationed in Berlin when I enlisted at the age of 23. Furthermore, Kerry and I lived "on the economy" as we used to say, for the last 18 months of my tour of duty. Our neighbors were German, the local shopkeepers were for the most part German, and each day consisted of living in and among the German people, an altogether wonderful and enriching experience. But the Cold War was something I viewed as being strictly between the big boys. That viewpoint is clearly reflected in my own writing. In each of my three Cold War novels, the primary contestants are the Americans and the Soviets. There are a number of characters who are neither Russian nor American, and some of them have major roles (Vanessa Porter, Karl Schuler, and Dalila Atieno, for example). However, at the heart of each book is the struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union which naturally reflects my experience. All of the above is a long way of saying that another reason I am enjoying Deutschland83 so much is that it presents a familiar time period and series of events in an unfamiliar manner. I suspect the same could be said for most of the show's American audience. I look forward to more.