Medicine under the swastika

The second season of the successful clinic series tells from 19. February the last years of World War II at Germany’s most famous hospital – and the abysses of Nazi-era medicine.

By Pete Smith Published: 13.02.2019, 06:41

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Scene from the second season: Professor Sauerbruch (Ulrich Noethen, 2nd from right) saves the life of a boy in a dramatic operation

Scene from the second season: Professor Sauerbruch (Ulrich Noethen, 2.v.r.) saves the life of a boy in a dramatic operation.

BERLIN. Autumn 1943: Anni is studying medicine at the renowned Charite hospital in Berlin, where her husband, the respected pediatrician Dr. Artur Waldhausen, works there, with whom she is expecting her first child. The up-and-coming doctor takes her exams under Professor Ferdinand Sauerbruch, whose ingenious surgical techniques are even featured in a newsreel.

After the famous surgeon stitches up a young soldier’s shattered thigh, however, psychiatrist Professor Max de Crinis, an ardent Nazi, speaks out, suspecting that the young soldier self-inflicted his "Heimatschuss" to escape the front lines.

First season a great success

As their doctoral advisor, de Crinis urges Anni to investigate the case, since the young physician is devoting her dissertation to the self-mutilation of soldiers. Anni readily agrees, after all, she and her husband are considered a model Aryan couple who unreservedly share the Nazis’ war and racial ideology. Her shock is all the greater when her baby, of all things, develops "abnormally" as a result of birth complications.

"Heimatschuss" is the name of the first episode with which ARD continues its hospital series "Charite," which was launched with great success two years ago. While the 1. The first episode of the second season, which traced medicine’s emergence into the modern era, is set for the second season. In the second season, the focus is on the war years from 1943 to 1945 and thus on the decline of a medicine "that was exclusively committed to the healthy human being," as MDR TV film director Jana Brandt puts it, who is responsible for ARD’s series in the main evening program.

The six-part saga starts on Tuesday, 19. February, at 20.3 p.m. with a double episode; afterward, a documentary illuminates the real-life background.

Big time jump

We remember: With the broadcast of a historical hospital series, the first broke new ground in 2017. At that time, the filmmakers took the viewers to the gloomy 19th century. The nineteenth century, in which doctors had to operate on their patients without electric light or running water. The challenges of yesteryear produced important physicians such as Robert Koch, Rudolf Virchow, Emil von Behring and Paul Ehrlich, who shaped the importance of the Charite for many years to come.

Half a century later, famous doctors are still working at the Berlin hospital, but in contrast to then, the Charite is experiencing its darkest period despite technical progress. With Max de Crinis (Lukas Miko), for example, director of the psychiatric clinic, spins the strings influential National Socialist, who will go down in the annals as one of the protagonists of the murders of the sick and disabled (Aktion T4).

His predecessor, Professor Karl Ludwig Bonhoeffer (Thomas Neumann), must fear for the lives of his son Dietrich and his son-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi (Max von Pufendorf), who are in prison as resistance fighters.

Were there any questions at the end of the 19. If there were emperors of the 19th century who sought help in the hallowed halls of the Charite, its most prominent patient in the wartime year of 1943 is Magda Goebbels (Katharina Heyer), wife of the Reich Minister of Propaganda.

Emancipation as a narrative thread

Notwithstanding those contrasts, there are parallels in both narrative and content to the 1. Relay. Right at the beginning, for instance, the two scriptwriters Dorothee Schon and Dr. Sabine Thor-Wiedemann, a doctor and medical journalist, once again brings the topic of emancipation to the fore: When the pregnant Anni (Mala Emde) is reduced to her role as a mother by an officer in the lecture hall on the day of her exam, of all things, she cheekily replies, "You’ll be amazed, I can do both."

On the subject of homosexuality, which has already been addressed in the 1. The first episode of the sequel, in which Max de Crinis is the author of the first episode of the second season, is a story arc: Widernatural, he lectures to his students, can only be cured by "emasculation," by death if need be. "We in the homeland," the doctor in uniform tries a corny joke, "also take care of your back in the shower bath."

The fact that the great Sauerbruch, like his counterpart Robert Koch from 1. The fact that a woman in the second season loves a woman 30 years younger than him is a (historically proven) coincidence, despite all the other parallels. Great how Ulrich Noethen breathes life into the character of the choleric, sly, equally self-absorbed and self-deprecating surgeon. To experience him alone is a pleasure.

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