Chernobyl scene

Ostalgie in Cinema

From Deutschland 83 to HBO’s Chernobyl, “Ostalgie” — which is what the Germans call nostalgia for the communist era — has become a trend in period and alternate-history fiction.

There are many variations of this. There is “Yugo-nostalgia” in the former Yugoslavia, Soviet nostalgia in Russia, and “Communist chic” in the West.

Here is an overview of the best productions.

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Gregory Peck

Nazis Survive

Rumors that the Nazis survived the fall of the Third Reich started to circulate almost as soon as the war in Europe ended in May 1945. There were stories that Adolf Hitler had escaped to Spain or South America. Some of his top lieutenants, notably Martin Bormann, were missing.

The speculation had some basis in reality. There really were efforts to smuggle Nazis out of Europe, but not on the scale Allied intelligence feared in the aftermath of the Second World War. Nor did anyone make serious preparations for a Fourth Reich.

Don’t tell diesel- and atomicpunk authors, who tend the exaggerate this history to spin wild tales of Nazi conspiracy.

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Schwerer Gustav German railway gun

Wonder Weapons of the Third Reich

As the Allies closed in on Hitler’s Germany in late 1944 and early 1945, a desperate Nazi regime turned to “wonder weapons” in a final effort to turn the tide in the war.

The best-known as the V-1 and V-2 rockets, which rained down on London by the hundreds but failed to demoralize the British. Others, such as the V-3 cannon and Schwerer Gustav railway gun, were barely used. Others yet, like the German atomic bomb and Die Glocke, either barely advanced beyond the drawing board or never existed at all.

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Raphael Lacoste artwork

Lost Cities and Civilizations

Cities lost to time and half-remembered civilizations, discovered deep in the mountains of the Himalayas, the Amazonian rainforest or at the bottom of the sea, are a familiar trope in steam- and dieselpunk fiction.

Drawing on the expeditions of Percy H. Fawcett and Heinrich Schliemann, the writings of James Churchward and Theodore Illion and the esotericism of Helena Blavatsky, W. Scott-Elliot and Rudolph Steiner, both genres exploit the half-real and fully imagined tales of ancient races that supposedly roamed the Earth millennia ago.

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Horten Ho IX German flying wing artwork

Strange Aircraft of the Third Reich: Real and Imagined

Did you know many of the strange German warplanes we see in dieselpunk are based on real designs?

As World War II drew to a close in Europe, Nazi Germany rushed the development of advanced bombers and fighter jets in a final effort to stop the Allies. From the world’s first operational turbojet fighter to a flying wing, some of these technologies were so far ahead of their time that Allied commanders speculated the Germans could have turned the tide of the war if only they had managed to prolong it by a few months.

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Transarctica artwork

Big Trains in the Snow: From Transarctica to Snowpiercer

The 1993 computer game Transarctica introduced us to a post-apocalyptic world in which huge armored trains were the only way to safely travel between remote human settlements.

The game wasn’t much of a success — one reviewer called it “intentionally annoying” — but the setting proved to be an inspiration.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order supersoldier

Dieselpunk Games’ Obsession with Nazi Supersoldiers

During World War II, German scientists synthesized anabolic steriods and experimented on concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war in an attempt to treat chronic wasting. Experiments were allegedly conducted on German soldiers to increase their aggression and agility, however, there is no evidence whatsoever that something like an Übersoldier (a play on the Nazis’ idealized Übermensch) was ever in the making — let alone created.

Yet “supersoldiers” keep appearing in video games.

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Nazi U-boat UFOs

Nazis in Antarctica

Soon after the war in Europe ended, rumors began to circulate that part of Germany’s military and scientific establishment had fled the fatherland before Soviet troops could conquer Berlin. Stories of missing U-boats and forbidden aviation technologies fueled wild theories of Nazi redoubts and the imminent resurrection of the Third Reich. A huge United States Navy operation in the Antarctic in 1946 seemed only to confirm the worst of fears — that the Nazis’ reign of terror had been able to survive underground near the South Pole.

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