The Biggest Differences Between The Book And The Series

In the series, Werner is forced to be a German soldier. He risks death every time he defies Nazi orders. As he later tells Etienne (Hugh Laurie), he is tormented by the “bad things” that he’s done. Of course, in the series, almost all of Werner’s anti-radio task force crimes happen off-screen. Werner is portrayed as a victim of circumstance. There are scenes in the series where he is literally forced to do wicked deeds. However, in the book, Werner’s relationship with violence and cruelty is expressed in a more complicated way.

Rather than being forced into attending the brutal National Political Institute of Education at Schulpforta, book-Werner sees this as a positive alternative to dying in the mines, like his father did. At school, Werner befriends Frederick, a character who doesn’t make a big dent in the netflix adaptation. Frederick is smart, sweet, and science-minded, just like Werner. But Frederick is outspoken about his beliefs. He gets beaten almost to death for them, and while Werner doesn’t agree with the Nazi youths who hurt Frederick, he keeps himself safe by not speaking out.

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Frederick is a major touchstone for Werner’s guilt and the first casualty in his life as a Nazi. Werner’s conflict over his role in the war and his tolerance of cruelty in favor of his own survival is a major aspect of the book. This is a big missing piece in the netflix adaptation.


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