Sunday, February 01, 2009

GERMAN TV RUNS FIRST MOVIE FOCUSING ON THE TROUBLES WHICH GERMAN VETERANS FACE COMING BACK FROM AFGHANISTAN

GERMAN TV RUNS FIRST MOVIE FOCUSING ON THE TROUBLES WHICH GERMAN VETERANS FACE COMING BACK FROM AFGHANISTAN

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany



On Monday, February 2, 2009, ARD-TV will be the first German TV station to show a film reviewing the life and treatment of German soldiers serving in NATO in Afghanistan and on other continents since 1992 (when troops were first sent to Somalia). The film is called simply “Welcome Back Home.” The film was directed by Christian Pfannenschmidt.

http://filmdramen.suite101.de/article.cfm/fernsehfilm_willkommen_zuhause

This lack of veterans’ issue coverage in Germany contrasts significantly with the situation in the U.S., where several TV series as well as many movies and documentaries have covered or explored U.S. veterans lives and home front experiences over the past two decades. Here are a few examples:

THE JACKET
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E7DA103DF937A35750C0A9639C8B63&fta=y

THE GULF WAR VETERAN SPEAKS OUT
http://www.archive.org/details/TheGulfWarVeteranSpeaksOutPt.1

WHEN I CAME HOME
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/65436/%22when_i_came_home%22:_the_best_film_yet_about_iraq_war_veterans_%5Bvideo%5D/

THE ROUTE 9 VETERANS FORUM CABLE ACCESS FORUM
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/65436/%22when_i_came_home%22:_the_best_film_yet_about_iraq_war_veterans_%5Bvideo%5D/


Naturally, as the number of U.S. young people coming back from war and committing suicide reaching an all-time high in 2008, Americans as a whole (unlike the former Bush-Cheney administration) can ill-afford to ignore the veterans’ experiences and the traumas, i.e. that they and their families face day-after-day after a series of ill-thought-out wars continues to diminish American self-confidence and self-identity (especially as American faces another year of Depression).

In the USA, there were at least 128 suicides by military vets—the highest level ever recorded--in 2008

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/01/29/army-suicides.html

Last autumn 2008, CBS went further than most investigators have done in recent decades by exposing the high level of military related suicides dating back to the Vietnam War.

http://www.thewe.cc/weplanet/news/armed_force/us_soldiers_committing_suicide_vietnam_iraq.html

According to CBS programming and noted University of Georgia researchers, “One age group stood out [in the decades-long study]. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)”


GERMANS AND THE TRUTH OF WAR VETERANS EXPERIENCE

Due to the aftermath of WWII and the Nazi-era, Germans as a whole have had to pretend that they are a more peaceful people than most—and many of them are.

Until the 1990 Unification of East and West Germany, almost no German forces had been outside of Europe for five decades. Even then, constitutionally, outside of NATO, Germans have little civil right or military authority to even engage in war anywhere on the planet.

Naturally, such pacifist tendencies or desires (or ideals), have been confronted by encroaching global involvements by Germans and Germany since the 1990s.

On the one hand, the German government did its best to stay out of the U.S. war follies in the Persian Gulf and Iraq over the past decades.

On the other hand, German military and governments have allowed the U.S. to make war from German territory for decades.

Moreover, Germany is one of the leading producers of military hardware in Europe. (To be fair, supposedly pacifistic Sweden, though, competes well in arms production, too.)

In the meantime, Germans have been writing about military suicides for centuries. One such tale was described in a 1712 book on Frederick the Great. It was written by Carlyle Works.

http://www.archive.org/stream/carlylesworksvfr037663mbp/carlylesworksvfr037663mbp_djvu.txt

Erich Maria Remarque was the German pacifist who wrote one of the most famous novels on war, ALL’S QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Im Westen nicht Neues). The work was filled in the USA in the late 1920s and was beloved by pacifists in the West since that time.

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/SCORE/all/alltg.html

Horst Schinzel has reviewed the new war film in Germany (first shown publically in late 2008) to be shown on ARD TV tomorrow night.

By the way, in German the film’s title is “Willkommen Zuhause”. Shinzel’s subtitle for the film is “A German comes home from Afghanistan but is traumatized”. Shinzel emphasizes in his review the fact that this is a film like hardly any other in German war film history.

Eric Leiman, another reviewer, explains that in post-WWII Germany, “Nazis and German soldiers in the Nazi-era and war-survivors in the years following WWII have long since become topics that are acceptable in German Cinema. Moreover, movies about the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of DDR are numerous. However, films that deal with modern Germans and modern war are a novelty.” This is why Leiman calls this is a “a brave film.”

Many reviewers of the film note that, physically, the main protagonist, named Ben Winters (played by Ken Duken), has returned from Afghanistan to Germany physically uninjured, but his soul is completely out of sorts.

The physical healthy surface level of Ken Duken’s appearance is contrasted throughout with the internal stress and turmoil the young man faces.

http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/10/27/1002-foreign-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-since-2001-website-says.html

The more those Germans around him, including parents and family, try to pretend life is normal, the more disconcertingly young Ben Winters behaves.

Winters lost a close comrade in Afghanistan. This death is one of the things which young Ben cannot get over. As has historically been the case in America, Winters avoids the offers for help.

Just as other Europeans have noted after years of war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, Germany has no especially current or great plans to support its homecoming troops. Moreover, the vocal anti-war rhetoric amongst local populace make it hard for German soldiers (who often do not wish to leave the military) to speak up.

That is, typically, only German career military volunteers go to war areas. Germany has only handled about 700 cases post-traumatic distress syndrome with any thoroughness since 1992.

With suicide bombings increasing in Afghanistan and with the number of non-Afghani soldiers being killed in each of the last three to four years in Afghanistan, the problem of untreated veterans is likely to grow in Germany and Eruope—i.e. even as society and the military continue to take the matter of post-traumatic stress syndrome less than fully seriously in terms of implementing more regular treatment opportunities for veterans.

Sadly, reviewer Horst Shinzel also writes that “Willdommen Zuhause”, the new ARD film, doesn’t attack the issues and speak up for the needs of German veterans nearly as seriously as is needed, i.e. as one would expect from a country that has such a long-term open commitment to being in Afghanistan.

http://article.wn.com/view/2009/01/07/NATOled_soldier_killed_in_Afghanistan/



NOTES

Afghan Suicide Bombing Kills two German Soldiers, http://www.upi.com/Related-News/Afghan_suicide_bombing_kills_two_German_soldiers,_five_children/6-493ed34bc7230/



Leimann, Eric, “Eine vom Krieg verletzte Seele”, Wiesbaden Kurrier, 31 January 2009, p.7

“Suicide Bomb Rocks German Embassy in Kabul”, http://www.france24.com/en/20090117-large-blast-near-kabuls-german-embassy-

Labels:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home