The unification of Germany may have brought with it some unforeseen pitfalls, but it has already paid one important dividend on television: Westdeutscher Rundfunk’s all-Germany, all-star war drama, “The End of Innocence.”
The program, which exposed many Germans for the first time to the story of their nation’s failed efforts to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, is nominated for an International Emmy Award for Best Drama.
“The author [Wolfgang Menge] is from West Germany, the director [Frank Beyer] is from East Germany, and the producer is from the middle,” says the producer himself, Martin Wiebel. The cast includes actors from the east and west, or as Wiebel puts it, “an Olympic team of German actors.”
Set in England in August 1945, the program follows 10 interned German scientists as they learn that an atomic bomb has been dropped on Hiroshima. Their initial reaction of disbelief slowly dissolves into anger and curiosity as the drama reveals what has remained for 45 years a little-known fact: that the Germans, too, had been trying to develop the bomb.
“The program has produced a rewrite of this part of Germany’s technical and political history,” Wiebel says.
German war dramas have a good track record in the International Emmys. The last time the International Emmy Award for Drama was given to a non-English-language program was 1985, when it went to “Das Boot.”
“The End of Innocence” has been sold to the BBC for broadcast in the U.K. but has not yet been purchased for broadcast in the U.S., Wiebel says.