Top positive review
471 people found this helpful
Powerful Visceral Documentary
on December 18, 2010
As a Historian I will add this to my personal collection of WWII Documentaries. I was impressed by the use of home movies shot by families that lived in Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party leading to WWII. The series effectively tied the experiences of the German citizenry in with how Hitler first came to power and then in leading the nation to war. The impact of Hitler's rise to power and how the Nazi Party ran the government was evolutionary rather than revolutionary for most Germans. We know how the Nazis marginalized the Jews before finally removing them from society. They along with the other "undesirables" were the focus of propaganda efforts to convince the German people that it was important to remove these people from society. The series shows how popular Hitler became as he led Germany out of the Great Depression and brought previously unattainable luxuries to the working class. Hitler and the Nazis restored German pride after the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty and other sanctions by the Allies after WWI. This series shows how happy Germans were as Hitler made one foreign policy triumph after another gaining new territory for the Reich up until the attack on Poland finally triggered WWII. Hitler was careful to keep domestic goods in production so the German people wouldn't have to sacrifice for the war effort which ironically led to Germany being the last nation to go to a full-time war economy. Hitler was fearful that the German people were too soft to bear the full measure of a war economy. So at the start of the war the German people were mostly unaffected by the war except for those men who went off to fight. The first episode of this series ends with Germany ascendant and flush with success in battle while at home most Germans were also doing well except for the Jews who were no longer a part of the Deutsches Volk.
The second part of this documentary (The Fall) starts with Nazi Germany realizing the vision of Hitler to conquer Europe for Lebensraum for the Deutsches Volk while coming to the conclusion on Die Endlösung sealing the fate of the Jews and other undesirables. This episode continues with the use of civilian home movies as well as using the movies shot by soldiers. This can be very disturbing as the atrocities committed on the Eastern Front are difficult to watch even for an experienced Historian like myself. This episode brings home the visceral impact of just how mundane the scene appeared to be as German soldiers herded Jews and other "enemies" into ditches and shot them en masse. The fall of the Third Reich was an excruciating process that involved a lot of suffering and death. The videos used by this episode illustrate the banality of evil as life went on as usual for those not fighting on the front. The Allied bombing did impact German cities and the civilian population. It is strange to see how humans struggle to continue their daily lives in the midst of rubble. After the Western Allies invaded Europe via Normandy the Americans took movies of what they saw as they advanced into Germany. They shot movies of the concentration camps they liberated bearing witness to the ugly reality of Die Endlösung. I believe it is the use of this excellent archive of movies shot by German civilians as well as Allied soldiers brings an emotional impact to this series that is fresh especially for those who have viewed the plethora of documentaries and films on this subject. The personal, individual and family perspective of this history is important to understand the immensity of this conflict on those who lived under Hitler and the Third Reich. This episode ends with the terrible repercussions experienced by the German people for the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis. The Soviets raped, pillaged and murdered on a scale that boggles the mind after they defeated the German Army. Millions of Germans fell under the control of the Soviet Union as Stalin set up a Communist East Germany. Western Germany was more fortunate but it took time for them to recover from the devastation of the war. Germany did not fully recover from the effects of the Third Reich until the reunification after the Fall of the Soviet Union. You cannot view this documentary and ever see the impact of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany in abstract and dispassionate terms ever again. My only real criticism of this series is that it was too short. I wonder what was left out due to time constraints as this series could easily have been twice as long and still been just as riveting and engrossing. I am hopeful that this DVD set will include extras and commentary.