This six-part series tells the epic story of World War II, providing an insight into the experiences of the millions of soldiers who fought across countries and continents, and the moving stories of the millions of civilians who saw their homes destroyed and lives disrupted by the cataclysm of war.
To tell this story, the best footage of World War II has been painstakingly transformed into colour, using digital techniques. Along with original colour home movies, it gives a new perspective on one of the great events of the last century.
Germany. 1939. When almost nothing seems to stand in his way, and with the USSR as his ally, Hitler invades Poland. Britain and France declare war while the U.S. maintains its neutrality. “The Phoney War” begins as millions of civilians wait to see if the conflict will resolve itself and Germany builds up its arsenal. The Aggression features fascinating, colourised footage of Hitler as he visits the Austrian village where he grew up (and the children still run barefoot), as well as footage shot by Eva Braun, his mistress, of the Führer relaxing at his Alpine chalet. Witness haunting images of the persecution of the Jews in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, Stalin’s gulags for political prisoners, and the magnificent city of Strasbourg emptied of its residents. Watch heart-felt good-byes as French soldiers leave loved ones at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris and civilians – young and old – as they prepare for air raids by donning gas masks. As Hitler continues his conquest of Europe, he invades Holland and Belgium and plans to make a surprise “sickle cut” through the dense Ardennes Forest, leaving the Allies with little chance of escape.
France. 1940. The Allied defensive lines are broken by Hitler’s daring sickle cut through the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes forest. British troops hastily evacuate from the beaches at Dunkirk, France, but are forced to abandon kilometres of precious military vehicles and equipment. The French army, once considered the best in the world, is in a shambles as almost two million soldiers are taken prisoner. Within a matter of days, the Germans march into Paris at daybreak. The Crushing Defeat includes colourised footage taken by Nazi soldiers on the beaches at Dunkirk as they gather around an old record player to celebrate their victory, as well as sound recordings taken by German Secret Service at the signing of the Franco-German Armistice. Heart-rending footage captures the plight of thousands of French civilians as they flee from the Nazis, as well as home movies taken by Londoners as they dig out from daily bombings, sleep in tube stations and carry on despite the death and destruction that surrounds them. In yet another daring gamble, Hitler now turns his attention to his Eastern campaign.
Prague. Copenhagen. Paris. 1941. The Germans now occupy several capital cities in Europe. After the Germans defeat France, Nazi soldiers are sent to Paris for rest and recreation while Polish prisoners and Jews are forced into slave labour to complete Nazi building projects. The Italian army is in disarray so Hitler dispatches one of his best generals to Libya. The Afrika Korps fry eggs on the surfaces of their tanks amidst the blistering desert sands of North Africa. Shock includes vivid colourised footage of the battle for the Soviet Union as the Germans struggle toward Moscow in the brutal Russian winter. Russian civilians are forced to burn their homes and fields so as to leave nothing behind for the Germans to salvage. No longer able to wash or to change their clothes and suffering from dysentery and typhus, German troops are just 30 kilometres from Moscow, when they are finally pushed back by the Red Army. Moscow is saved – but the USSR has been ravaged. Two days after Hitler’s first, major defeat, Japan launches a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbour and the war officially becomes a “World War.”
America joins the war as the conflict rages in South-East Asia, North Africa and Russia. Meanwhile the Nazis instigate The Final Solution.
This episode looks at the turning of the war against Germany, with Allied victory at El Alamein and Russian triumph at Stalingrad. Inside Hitler's Germany the SS gain more power, and in southern Europe the Allies fight their way though Italy.
The dramatic story of the D-Day landings and of the liberation of Paris. In the east the Soviets liberate Auschwitz and fight their way to the heart of Berlin. Germany finally surrenders, but Japan fights on until the atom bombs are dropped.