Posts Tagged ‘soviet union’

Type: Documentary
Title: Apocalypse: The Second World War
Category: World War II

Thanks to the efforts of a few, private collectors & archivists, these forgotten films have been rediscovered, restored & made available by National Geographic Channel in an extraordinary six-part series: Apocalypse: The Second World War. In addition to stunning footage, the series presents WW2 in an innovative & provocative way, giving audiences an unprecedented sense of the reality of war not conveyed by black & white footage.

Made up entirely of original 35mm, 16mm & 8mm films, Apocalypse: The Second World War includes rare footage of the Polish officers’ massacre at Katyń, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, the inhumane treatment of French soldiers taken prisoner by the Nazis & the sacrifice of Soviet soldiers at Stalingrad.

By bringing this incredible footage together, Apocalypse: The Second World War provides viewers with a ground-breaking portrait of WW2 that depicts not only its complexity, but the perspectives of both its victims & its victors.

Apocalypse: The Second World War is a six-part documentary consisting of the following episodes:

The Aggression (1933-39): Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
The Crushing Defeat (1939-40): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
Shock (1940-41): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
World Ablaze (1941-42): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
The Great Landing (1942-43): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Inferno (1944-45): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

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Title: The CIA & The Nazis
Category: News, Politics & World War II

Six months after Allied Forces liberated German concentration camps, a military tribunal formed at Nuremberg to prosecute Nazi War Criminals. Some of the most dangerous were brought to justice – but not all. The CIA & The Nazis reveals how over 4,000 former Nazis went to work for the US government, without the public’s knowledge, to help fight the Soviet Union. Reinhard Gehlen, an intelligence officer for Hitler’s General Staff, was tapped to head the US Intelligence program in West Germany to spy on the Russians. At the same time, former Nazi scientists & engineers were welcomed onto American soil. But the extent of these operations is only now becoming clear: In 1998, a law was passed mandating declassification of documents concerning recruitment of former Nazis. The documentary titled The CIA & The Nazis examines these files to see how far the US went in recruiting its former enemy to fight its new one.

The truth is, thousands of former Nazis, some of whom committed atrocities, went to work for the United States government without the public’s knowledge. During the war, their crimes ranged from overseeing slave labor camps to sending orphans to their deaths. After the war, they were on the US payroll either as scientists in America or as intelligence agents in Europe.

Title: Брестская Крепость (The Brest Fortress)
Director: Alexander Kott

The Red Army’s defense of the Brest Fortress against the Nazis in June-July 1941 is one of the most resonant episodes of the Great Patriotic War. The legend about the feat of the defenders of the fortress—the Citadel on the Bug, as it is often called—emerged during the Khrushchev Thaw. The myth about the fearless warriors, who fought Hitler’s army deep in the enemy’s rear for almost a month was formed in the mid 1960s, after the publication of a book by the Moscow journalist Sergei Smirnov (the father & grandfather respectively of filmmaker Andrei Smirnov & Dunia Smirnova). In the 1970s, at the suggestion of the First Secretary of the Belarus Communist Party, Peter Masherov, the Brest Fortress became the ideological & tourist brand for Belarus, as well as an occasion for the propaganda of Soviet internationalism: the garrison at the Fortress had included a dozen nationalities of the USSR. For the authorities of modern Belarus, the history of the Brest Fortress & its defenders is, above all, an example of the “fraternal attitudes” to allied Russia. It is no wonder that this well-known plot was chosen for the first film project of the Television & Radio Organization (TRO) of the Union state.

The film project was preceded by a documentary film of the same title, made by TRO a year before the beginning of the feature film. According to scriptwriter Konstantin Vorob’ev, it was the success of the television screenings of the documentary that pushed the management of TRO into the direction of a live-action film for the silver screen. The film-project The Brest Fortress was financed from the budget of the Allied State of Russia & Belarus at a ratio of 60 & 40 percent respectively, with an overall budget of approximately $7 million. The ideological inspiration for the film came from the former television comedian & now head of TRO, Igor’ Ugol’nikov, who emphasized from the very beginning the public importance of the project. The Brest Fortress should tell the young generation of Russians & Belorusians “the truth about the war”, which has been deformed in recent narratives. In particular, young men should know that the main contribution to the victory over Nazism came from the USSR.

Film review written by Anton Sidorenko

The War of the Century: When Hitler Fought Stalin, is a BBC documentary film series that examines Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the “no holds barred” war on both sides. It not only examines the war but also the terror inside the Soviet Union at the time due to the paranoia of Joseph Stalin – the revenge atrocities, the purge of the armed forces, the near-lunacy orders, & the paranoia of being upstaged by others, especially Marshal Zhukov. The historical adviser is Prof. Ian Kershaw.

While the Phony War dragged on in the West, world attention turned to an escalating conflict in the East. Following the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in late September 1939, Stalin’s government began pressuring Finland to make territorial concessions on the Karelian Isthmus. At the time, the Soviet-Finnish border crossed this strip of land between the Gulf of Finland & Lake Ladoga just twenty miles north of Leningrad – well within the range of Finnish artillery – & Stalin was concerned that, should Finland fall under German control, Leningrad’s safety would be compromised.

The Soviet dictator further requested that Finland grant him a thirty-year lease on the port at Hangö, about a hundred miles west of Helsinki, so that the Soviets could establish a naval base there. In exchange, he offered twice as much Soviet territory north of Lake Ladoga.

The Finns agreed to everything except the Hangö lease, which they claimed would violate their neutrality & compromise their independence. The Soviets next began a propaganda offensive, & when that also failed to win them Hangö, they invaded. Stalin initially threw thirty infantry divisions & six tank brigades against the nine Finnish divisions defending Karelia. Later, he sent even more troops north of Lake Ladoga to attack Finland from the east. This latter move showed especially poor judgment.

In general, the Soviets had made the same mistake that Franz Halder was contemplating killing Hitler to prevent: They had invaded Finland in winter, when conditions were simply not suitable for offensive operations. Their mechanized units quickly bogged down in thickly forested, snow-clogged terrain, & thousands of frozen Soviet corpses soon lined the few rough tracks along which tanks could pass. Finally, in January 1940, the Red Army pulled back from its lines north of Lake Ladoga & concentrated its vastly superior firepower on the Karelian front. Outnumbering the Finns there fifty to one, the Soviet troops eventually broke the Finnish lines & threatened Helsinki. On March 12th, the Finnish government asked for an armistice. The fighting ended two days later.

Thus the Red Army won the Winter War but hardly in a satisfactory manner. In Berlin, Hitler took careful notice of the numerous blunders the Soviets made & the great difficulty they had subjugating what was, by anyone’s measure, a considerably inferior Finnish military. How could the Red Army, the Führer must have wondered, possibly stand up to the Wehrmacht?

The initial American military response to Churchill’s plan for a second front in North Africa was firmly negative. On July 11th, 1942, less than three weeks after the prime minister’s visit to Washington, army chief of staff Marshall & navy chief of staff Ernest J. King recommended to the president that he “assume a defensive attitude toward Germany, & use all available means in the Pacific” should the British insist on “any other operation rather than forceful, unswerving adherence to full Bolero plans.”

Roosevelt; however, had no intention of abandoning his “Europe first” strategy & immediately sent the two chiefs to London to work things out with the British. When Churchill proved adamant, Marshall & King, following Roosevelt’s instructions, acceded to the North African landing, now code-named Torch.

If the two chiefs of staff were perturbed by the shelving of Bolero, their agitation was niggling compared to Soviet premier Joseph Stalin’s outrage. In the wake of the PQ 17 disaster, Churchill had already halted the Arctic convoys, & now the second front in France that had been promised for 1942 was also disappearing. Meanwhile, the Germans were once again on the move, advancing on Stalingrad & punishing the Soviets, who continued to bear by far the heaviest part of the fighting against Hitler. Unless the British & Americans became more actively involved & soon, Churchill feared, Stalin might well choose to seek a separate peace. Therefore, the British prime minister decided to visit the Soviet leader personally & use his considerable diplomatic talents to improve, as best he could, Stalin’s morale.

During his subsequent journey to Moscow, Churchill contemplated how he might mollify “this sullen, sinister Bolshevik state I had once tried so hard to strangle at its birth.” In the end, there was little he could do. As he noted later, “Stalin observed that from our long talk it seemed that all we were going to do was no Sledgehammer, no Roundup, & pay our way by bombing Germany.” The RAF had indeed intensified its area-bombing campaign during 1942, but this was hardly equivalent to the Soviet contribution & did nothing to distract the Nazis from their onslaught in the East. “Peering into that Kremlin gloom in August 1942,” David M. Kennedy has written, “some historians have discerned the first shadows of the Cold War. Certainly the Soviets at this point had ample reason to doubt their Western partners.”

Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union in June 1941 has generated considerable historical controversy. Among the most controversial “What ifs” concerns the timing of the German Attack.

What if the Germans had delayed Barbarossa until after dealing with Great Britain (in 1942 or 1943)?

A German delay of up to two years in launching Operation Barbarossa could have had a significant effect on immediate conditions surrounding the attack & on the initial course of operations. It is not likely, however, that such a delay would have altered the outcome of the war. German postponement of Operation Barbarossa until 1942 or 1943 presumes that Germany would have been able to defeat or neutralize Great Britain. Although a direct German invasion of the British Isles was thwarted in 1940 & would probably have been unlikely in 1941, a broad German thrust through the Balkans into the Middle East (an expanded Mediterranean strategy) in time could have brought Britain to its knees. Such an outcome would have cleared Germany’s southern flank & rear & permitted German military planners to adhere to their schedule for an invasion of the Soviet Union in May of 1942 or 1943, thus avoiding the delay which they experienced in 1941.

On the other hand, one must recognize that expanded German military operations in the Middle East & Mediterranean basis could conceivably have tied down large German forces, or done damage to German units, which would have required repair by the time Barbarossa actually began: recall German casualties in the Crete operation.

Assuming the Germans succeeded in clearing their southern flank, neutralizing Britain & assembling an imposing military host to conduct Barbarossa, the delay of one or two years would have posed other problems for the Germans. First, it is unlikely that the Germans could have achieved in 1942 or 1943 the degree of surprise they achieved in 1941, in particular since they would not have benefited from the deceptive effect which the Balkan operation had on the Soviet government in spring 1941.

Second & even more important, by 1942 the Soviet military reorganization & re-equipment program, which had begun in 1940, would have been close to completion, if not fully complete. The Soviet armored force of 29 mechanized corps, so woefully deficient in requisite tanks in June 1941, & so poorly trained & equipped with the 1,443 model T-34 & KV tanks in 1941, surprised the Germans & locally slowed the German attack. By 1942 most of the ten Soviet mechanized corps in the border military districts, & the six which ultimately reinforced them, would have possessed a sizeable compliment of the new tanks, enough to disrupt seriously German operations.

The restructuring & re-equipment program began in 1940 after the end of the Soviet-Finnish War, during which the Soviets did so poorly. It involved the streamlining of rifle forces (divisions), creation of mechanized corps, airborne corps, & a host of other measures. Soviet analysis of German operations in Western Europe spurred the efforts on. According to Soviet sources the program was to be completed by the summer of 1942.

By June 1941, T-34 & KV-1 & 2 strength was just short of 1,500, most in the border military districts. By summer, 1942, this figure should have risen to over 16,000. Realistically, the figure should not have exceeded 5,000, but that number would have had a sizable impact on operations. Regarding surprise, 6th Panzer Division’s harrowing experiences with several battalions of Russian T-34 & KV-1 tanks was indicative of what an even larger & better prepared Russian force would have achieved.

Had German intelligence detected the existence of the new models, & had Hitler sought to delay the attack until comparable German tanks were available, further delay was a technological race the Germans could not have won.

Given greater Soviet military capabilities, it is also more likely that Stalin wold have considered some sort of preemptive action against Germany. If preemption did not occur, Soviet forces would have been better prepared than they were in 1941 to meet & defeat the actual German invasion.