The Last Days of World War II: Death of the Reich (1995)
Editorial Reviews, by Amazon.com
The Last Days of World War II is actually three separate and outstanding History Channel documentaries about the horrifying, surreal violence that marked the decisive months of the war in Europe. The first film begins with Hitler's declaration that the Third Reich would last 1,000 years, yet by 1945 Germany was losing on every major battlefront. Still, tens of thousands of civilian and military lives would be lost before fighting ceased: in the Battle of the Bulge, pitting 600,000 Allied troops against a Nazi surge in Belgium; in Dresden, where Allied bombers spent days fire-bombing women and children; in the subway tunnels of Berlin, where refugees were drowned when a paranoid, sleepless Hitler ordered them flooded to stave off Russian soldiers. Plentiful interviews with former officers on all sides of the war, commentary by historians, and remarkable footage of battles, concentration camps, and the Nuremberg trials make this a compelling narrative rich with enlightening details.
A second disc includes a superb piece about the destruction of a U.S. Navy submarine-chaser off the coast of Maine, and a strategic cover-up that denied, for more than 60 years, that the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Finally, the story of the German-Japanese alliance, and the role of a geography professor named Karl Haushofer (who coined the phrase "geopolitics") in a number of key wartime events, make a fascinating subject for the final production. --Tom Keogh
Death of the Reich
In ten days of bloody fighting in the Ardennes forest, the fate of the war in Europe was sealed. The Battle of the Bulge left the Wehrmacht in tatters and the road to Berlin clear for the advancing British and American forces. For six months, the Germans staved off the inevitable, despite incessant bombing and the surrender of over a quarter of a million soldiers. But, by May of 1945, the Soviet flag flew over Berlin, Hitler was dead, and the war was over.
Vocabulary: autopsy, capitulation, debacle, decimated, exploit, fanatical, goose step, guerilla, incendiary, Luftwaffe, paranoid, Reich, retrospect, sabotage, sniper, vagabond
1. In war, “to the victor belong the spoils.” What are the spoils of war? What does this phrase mean?
2. In December 1944, Hitler moved the bulk of his forces from the eastern front to the western front. Why did Hitler do this? What did he hope to achieve?
3. The Battle of the Bulge was one of the decisive battles of WWII. Why did the Germans lose this battle? How did this loss contribute to the final outcome of WWII?
4. As the Red Army invaded Germany, it went on a rampage of destruction and looting. Why did the Red Army feel justified in the plunder of Germany?
5. Allied forces destroyed the city of Dresden, causing the death of over 100,000 civilians. Why did the Allied forces do this? What did they accomplish by killing civilians? Are there any rules in war about the conduct of armies?
6. When Berlin and Germany were about to fall to the Allied forces, Hitler insisted to the people of Germany that victory was in sight. Why did Hitler say this when it was obviously not true?
7. Every nation uses propaganda during wartime. What is propaganda? How do you recognize propaganda? What is the role of propaganda in wartime?
8. Hitler’s death camps killed over 10 million people. How was it possible that these camps were secret?
9. General Eisenhower insisted that the liberation of the death camps be photographed and witnessed. Why did he think this was so important? How did Eisenhower’s predictions come true?
10. Why did Hitler commit suicide?
1. Imagine that you are a soldier during WWII. Write a letter home to your family describing the war and your experiences.
2. On a map of Europe, trace the path of the Allied invasion from Normandy to Berlin.
3. Create a timeline that chronicles the major events of WWII.
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