The Nazis - A Warning From History (1997)
Videos in this documentary
The Nazis - A Warning from History
Written by Laurence Rees with a forward by Professor Ian Kershaw
"That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It must be continually remembered. It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented." Karl Jaspers
The strength of Laurence Rees's accessible history lies in the testimonies of more than fifty eyewitnesses, many of whom were committed Nazis and are only now free to tell their story as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism. Their experiences confirm that there was massive collaboration with the Nazi regime, both at home and on the war fronts, and that the terrible atrocities in the east were the work not just of elite killing squads but also of ordinary German soldiers and of local civilian populations.
How was Nazism possible? The Nazis - A Warning from History exposes the popular myths surrounding the rise and fall of the Third Reich. This book takes a fresh look at how the Nazis came to power, how they ruled and Hitler's role within the party. It describes the horrors perpetrated on the Eastern Front, including the occupation and division of Poland, the growth of anti-Semitism to its culmination in the gas chambers of Treblinka and Auschwitz, and the final months of the war when the Nazis came to reap the consequences of the suffering they had sown.
The Nazis - A Warning from History challenges the popularly accepted perception of Nazi power which focuses on Hitler as the source of all the regime's evil. Above all, it considers how a cultured nation such as Germany could be responsible for such acts of inhumanity.
Laurence Rees's history of the Nazis sheds new light on the causes of the worst conflict the world has ever known. The thought-provoking conclusions may not be what we would like to believe.
"Nazism, a creed born in Germany, brought into the world new knowledge of how low human beings can sink. Hitler did not do this on his own. Could something similar happen again somewhere in the world?" Laurence Rees, January 1997
Laurence Rees, the writer and producer of The Nazis - A Warning from History, is also the Editor of Timewatch, the BBC's historical documentary strand, as well as joint head of BBC TV's history programmes unit. Under his editorship Timewatch has won three Emmy awards. As a writer and producer of historical documentaries his awards include a Broadcast Magazine Production award, a Broadcasting Press Guild award, a George Foster Peabody award and a BAFTA (for The Nazis - A Warning from History). He is also the author of a novel Electric Beach, Selling Politics and Horror in the East.
Praise for the award-winning series:
"One of the greatest documentary series of all time", Daily Mail.
"An outstandingly crisp, coherent account", Sunday Telegraph.
"Compelling", Daily Express.
Episode 1: Helped into Power
The programme considers how it was possible for a man such as Adolf Hitler to come to power in a supposedly cultured country such as post First World War Germany. It gives a number of long term and short term factors to explain the Nazi phenomenon
Episode 2: Chaos and Consent
The theme of the programme focuses on the paradoxical nature of Germany under Nazi rule - a society obsessed by order and yet characterised by administrative inefficiency. It opens with daunting images of Nazi crowds and the comment that the Nazis were obsessed with images of order which they attempted to illustrate and promote in their careful propaganda and yet, the programme claims, it was 'an illusion of order'
Episode 3: The Wrong War
The programme starts, with Hitler in his retreat in southern Bavaria, watching feature films about the British Empire - supposedly, these offered proof of the superiority of the Aryan Race! In 1941 he said 'Let's learn from the English - what India was to the English, let Russian territories be to us'. The programme then asks the question - How did Hitler end up fighting the wrong war? - a war against both the English and the Russians.
Episode 4: The Wild East
This programme focuses on the experience of Poland during the Second World War, a country that suffered more than any other under Nazi occupation and where one in five people died. In particular, the Poles suffered the most brutal acts of ethnic cleansing
Episode 5: The Road to Treblinka
The programme starts with a view of a railway line, followed by the view of a field. Between July 1942 - August 1943 this area became a 'killing factory'. This is TREBLINKA, one of six extermination camps set up in Poland by the Germans to tackle the Jewish Question'
Episode 6: Fighting to the End
The programme starts with the observation that because Italy was 'the birthplace of fascism', an alliance between Rome and Berlin in the 1930's therefore seemed natural and not unexpected. The two countries fought together in the first years of the Second World War, but on 19 July 1943, the 'unthinkable happened' Rome was bombed.
Review from Amazon.com:
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful:
July 26, 2007
By Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)
This six-part British documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Hitler and the Nazis, though far from just being the usual retelling of familiar historical events, it goes so much deeper. A lot of the pictures and film footage haven't been seen before, and many of the people interviewed were actual higher-ups in the Nazi Party or Wehrmacht, instead of just interviewing regular soldiers and civilians. Other people interviewed are those who lived under the Nazi occupation in Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania. A number of the very elderly Germans, as well as a Lithuanian who was a member of the Einsatzgruppen, are pretty matter-of-fact and unrepentant about what they did, even with so many decades of historical hindsight and knowing what we do now. There's also a lot of information that hasn't been brought to light before about many of the topics covered.
Disc one contains the episodes 'Helped into Power,' 'Chaos and Consent,' and 'The Wrong War.' The first episode covers the historical background that gave rise to the Nazi Party, starting with the humiliation of losing WWI and the skyrocketing inflation and demilitarisation that resulted, and going on to how this minor insignificant party would, within the span of a decade, become as large and powerful as it became, and how it eventually won almost unanimous support. The second episode deals with the true chaotic inner-workings of the Nazi Party, showing that beneath their veneer of order, they were really disorganised and unmotivated leaders, spending more time on infighting (much of it encouraged by Hitler) and playing around than conducting serious business. It also covers the topic of the mass murder of the mentally disabled, a policy which chillingly started when a man wrote to Hitler asking if his disabled son could be euthanised. The final episode on the first disc covers the start of WWII and how it wound up being the war that Hitler had not originally wanted, since he'd long admired Great Britain for how well they controlled their vast empire in spite of being such a relatively small people, and had also long viewed the Soviet Union as Germany's enemy, yet wound up fighting against Great Britain and allied, at least temporarily, with the Soviets.
Disc two contains the episodes 'The Wild East,' 'The Road to Treblinka,' and 'Fighting to the End.' The first episode deals with the brutal treatment of Poland and the Poles in the wake of the Nazi invasion. Poland was the nation which suffered by far the most; about one in every five Poles was murdered. In the wake of encorporating Poland into Greater Germany, ethnic Germans who lived in other areas were encouraged to move in, but as the survivors who are interviewed recount, this wasn't nearly as happy and cheery as the propaganda films suggested, even for the ethnic Germans, who soon found that they weren't moving into some paradise where everything was automatically provided for them. The second episode deals with the Einsatzgruppen (the mobile killing squads that massacred the Jewish communities in the Baltic states, Belarus, and the western regions of Russia and the Ukraine), experiments into mass extermination by gas, the Polish ghettoes, and the infamous Treblinka itself. The final episode deals with 1943 through to the end of the war, when Germany's former Italy surrendered to the Allies, overthrew their own dictator and got their king back, and began fighting on the other side, as untold amounts of slave laborers from Poland were brought into Germany to work, as people were tortured and murdered in concentration-camps, as an assassination attempt was made on Hitler's life, as Germany suicidally fought on to the bitter end and even began turning against its own loyal citizens, and finally as Germany came under a horrible occupation by the Red Army.
The lessons to be learned from this series truly do serve as a warning from history. Most people today like to think that such a thing couldn't ever happen again and can't even understand why it happened in the first place, but as it's demonstrated, the Nazis didn't come about and eventually rise to power, wage a world war, and commit horrific atrocities overnight or in a vacuum. It's up to us to remember and learn from history so that such things won't ever happen again.