After watching the first season – Deutschland 83 – I was excited to see the second season available on Netflix. Compared to Deutschland 83, this season was a slight disappointment; watchable but not as binge worthy as Deutschland 83.
For those expecting more of the same Deutschland 86 will come as a surprise. Deutschland 86 moved away from its core East Germany vs West Germany Cold War premise and shifted to the Cold War battleground of South Africa.
The episodes didn't flow seamlessly, i.e. the stories seemed jumpy and often only loosely connected. While there was continuity with main characters, e.g. Martin Rauch, Lenora Rauch, et. al. many new persons were introduced and made the story more complicated to follow.
In a nutshell, the plot goes as follows. The Soviet Union is near bankruptcy. Gorbachev is implementing reforms which include cutting financial aid to Warsaw Pact countries like East Germany. In the new environment, East Germany's government is forced to scramble for hard currencies like the Deutsche Marks (remember the West German currency?!) by going 'capitalist.'
Many schemes, legal and illegal but all surreptitious, are concocted by East German leaders. East German blood is sold across the border. East German citizens are used for (often unethical) medical trials by Western pharmaceutical companies.
However, for Deutschland 86 the focus is on smuggling weapons. Not just routine arms smuggling but violating a UN arms embargo against South Africa's white supremacist Apartheid regime (remember black people were legally subhuman until the late 1980s in South Africa?!).
Yes, communist East Germany was selling weapons to 'Free / Capitalist South Africa' so it could suppress Mandela's communist African National Congress (ANC) armed insurgency … to generate money to keep the Socialist dream alive! Ironic but true. Much of Deutschland 86 revolves around the adventures related to selling arms to South Africa and the shenanigans required to circumvent UN sanctions and hoodwink ordinary communist East Germans.
Deutschland 86 is eminently watchable. Not as tightly knit as the first season of Deutschland. Nonetheless, it reveals important insights into the demise of the East Bloc's communist regimes while still entertaining viewers. For social scientists, Deutschland 86 underscores the importance of pragmatism over ideology.
NB: At the time of writing Deutschland 86 is available on Netflix in multiple jurisdictions.
Imran is a Singapore based Tour Guide with a special interest in arts and history. Imran has lived and worked in several countries during his career as an international banker. He enjoys traveling, especially by train, as a way to feed his curiosity about the world and nurture his interest in photography. He is available on twitter (@grandmoofti); Instagram(@imranahmedsg) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.