How could a political party as fundamentally evil and overtly racist as the Nazis come to power? Why was Japan, known for its admirable treatment of POWs in WWI, responsible for such grim atrocities in the Second World War? This comprehensive collection not only examines the details of the conflict (the Battle of Moscow, the campaign against German U-boats, the RAF bomber offensive), but digs deeper to attempt to answer the questions that still haunt us. Through startling archive footage and eyewitness testimony, this 12-disc set offers a unique perspective and true understanding of what actually happened.
Documentaries:Battle of the Atlantic includes a 50-minute documentary on merchant seamenHorror in the East includes a 50-minute documentary on the Indian Army and a 60-minute documentary on Burma
Featurette:D-Day: Reflections of Courage includes a 20-minute making-of featurette
Introduction:Award-winning writer, filmmaker and Creative Director of BBC History Laurence Rees provides introduction and closing words to collection
Other:D-Day: Reflections of Courage includes 30 minutes of eyewitness accounts Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State includes six follow-up discussions hosted by award-winning journalist Linda Ellerbee
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With 30 hours of programming in 10 volumes and three full-length bonus programs, the BBC History of World War II goes beyond even The World at War for its depth of scope, its breadth of analyses, and the high quality of its production values. This ambitious project by producer Laurence Rees, which also features a collector's booklet, is full of startling archival footage and illuminating eyewitness interviews that bring to life some of the most monumental events from the most monumental war in human history.
The focus on this set is clearly the war in Europe (only one disc, Horror in the East, is dedicated to the war with Japan) as told from an even-handed British perspective: interviews with German citizens make it understandable how Hitler appealed to a shattered and defeated nation, for example, and the The Road to War scrutinizes how a British government was caught unprepared for a re-armed Germany bent on domination. The collection is filled with poignantly fascinating moments, such as when an aging American veteran revisits the Omaha Beach he stormed on D-Day, and meets the elderly German who, as a teenager, was defending that section of the beach with his machine gun, or footage of Hitler's early political speeches, raging promises of things to come.
Roughly chronologically arranged, the set starts with The Nazis: A Warning from History, and works its way through all facets of the war, including the legacy of the Holocaust. (Some of the titles were previously released as single DVDs.) The presentation is particularly impressive. Each series has its own style: Dunkirk is a drama-documentary structured like a miniseries and reenactments are deftly interwoven with archival footage in a convincing motif. In War of the Century: When Hitler Fought Stalin, German and Russian veterans recall with chilling candor their particular universe of battle, and rare color combat footage combined with newly declassified Soviet documents offer new perspectives on the subject. The collection succeeds brilliantly in making it clear to a modern-day viewer what it was really like to live through those times.
For the war buff, the history enthusiast, the educator, or someone looking for a gift for any of the above, the BBC History of World War II is a title to consider. Even dedicated viewers of the History Channel will find something new and fascinating here. --Dan Vancini
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