Babylon Berlin (season 1)

Berlin 1929.  A vice cop from Cologne is investigating a high-end prostitution ring whose clients include some politically powerful people back in his home town.  Before he knows it, he’s investigating a murder, and uncovers a political conspiracy involving stolen Russian gold, Trotskyite labor organizers, Armenian mobsters and a group of German revanchists secretly building a (banned) Air Force outside the country.  And that’s before he meets the girl.

This was apparently the most expensive German TV program ever made.  They put the money into period-appropriate sets and costumes, as well as a few stunning nightclub scenes.  The acting is first-rate, as is the script, which includes a few twists and turns I guarantee you won’t see coming.

This being 1929, Hitler doesn’t put in an appearance, and the swastika is seen only once towards the end of the story.  But there are plenty of harbingers of the awfulness to com — anger over the perceived unfairness of the Versailles treaty, international arms dealers eager to transport poison gas, more or less open anti-Semitism.  And we are shown plenty of people, from the Jewish police inspector to the deaf-mute parents of a police officer, who are not going to fare too well in the coming decades.  The message is clear — Hitler didn’t spring up out of nowhere.  I wish sometimes we could be as honest about our own history.

On Netflix.

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