Wall finally falls on Teutonic TV

Critics condemn historical white-washing of former state

BERLIN — While communist propaganda hasn’t exactly returned to Germany’s airwaves, East German chic is definitely back in fashion.

It’s been 14 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall opened up East Germany to the West, but a growing wave of nostalgia, spurred by the box office success of East-West comedy “Good Bye, Lenin!,” has suddenly made anything GDR the trendiest of TV programming.

In the pic, a loving son from the former East Germany tries to hide reunification from his sick mother, who has suddenly come out of a coma.

While TV webs are finally tackling the once touchy subject of Germany’s 40-year division and life on the other side of the Wall, critics like Help, a Berlin-based org for victims of political violence, have condemned what they say is a historical white-washing of the former totalitarian state.

Help has urged RTL to cancel its new “DDR Show” even before its Sept. 3 premiere. Even the title of the show, the org argues, devilifies a dictatorship that killed East German citizens who sought to flee over the Wall and used the infamous Stasi secret police to hound and terrorize dissidents and civil rights activists.

RTL has not responded directly to Help’s demands, saying it has no reason to justify its programming or the content of the show, which is hosted by former East German ice skating champion Katarina Witt (“Ronin”) and West German-born Oliver Geissen.

“We are not ignoring the political situation in East Germany,” says RTL spokesman Edgar Schnicke. “The ‘DDR Show’ seeks to present the normal every day life of the 18 million people that lived in East Germany: they lived, loved and laughed just like people did in West Germany.”

RTL has broadcast other reports and documentaries about the political hardships in the once communist country.

Other shows have focused on nostalgic topics, like East Germany’s obsession with nudism, or its auto industry, which mass produced the sputtering two-stroke Trabant car.

Commercial web SAT 1 attracted 3.5 million primetime viewers with its new “Meyer & Schulz — Die ultimative Ost-Show” (The Ultimate East Show), a Saturday night comedy variety skein hosted by former East German heavyweight boxer Axel Schultz and West German talk meister Ulrich Meyer.

“For eastern Germans, the show offers memories, for western Germans, it provides new insights,” says SAT 1 spokeswoman Jutta Kehrer.

Pubcaster ZDF hit the ratings jackpot this summer with its “Ostalgie Show” and fellow pubcaster ARD recently introduced its retro talkshow “Ein Kessel DDR” — named after a cult Cold War-era East German variety show called “Ein Kessel Buntes” — and garnered a 23% market share on regional affiliate MDR.