Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Berga Soldiers of Another War|
Actors: Al Abrams, Anthony Acevedo, Herschel Auerbach, Ernst Beier, Morton D. Brooks
Genres: Educational, Documentary, Military & War
Charles Guggenheim dedicated the last six months of his life finishing this film. This is a story about his fellow American infantrymen, who were captured during the Battle of the Bulge, then sent to a Nazi slave labor cam... more »
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a shocking story of American soldiers sent to a concentration camp. This is a powerful documentary of a little known episode in WWII. The film, however, is not the first to document the story. It actually was inspired by revelations about Berga in Mitchell Bard's 1994 book, Forgotten Victims: The Abandonment of Americans in Hitler's camps."
Uplifting and edifying
Gitana3000 | New York City | 08/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If "Schindler's List" excused opportunism for the sake of survival, this documentary demonstrates self-sacrifice in the name of human decency and reclaims the terroritory lost by the human race when it left the Spielbergs of the world to tell us all how to live. The unforgettable person in this story is the man I would have liked to have met and married--the German-American commander who chose to accompany his Jewish and Italian -American troops who were forced into slave labor in a concentration camp on account of their racial makeup. His act of courage should be a source of pride to all of us and serve as an example of leadership under dire circumstances. If there ever was a story that gave the lie to the claim that survival under such circumstances is dependent upon acting exclusively in one's own self-interest, this is it. Add to that the bits of wisdom brought forth from interviews with other ex-inmates about how POWs survive and what is most likely to kill them and you have a history lesson that is difficult to forget.
One small caveat: For those who are hooked on archival footage, this film offers nothing in the way of cutaways. It's strictly talking heads."
An important story
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 03/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Not a lot of people know that there were actually a number of Americans who were caught up in the tragedy of the Shoah (obviously not nearly as many as there were native-born Europeans, but there were also more than just an isolated few). This documentary introduces us to one of those stories. In December of 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, several thousand GIs were taken prisoner by the Germans, and sent to Stalag 9B, which was presumably an ordinary POW camp. The order then came for all of the Jewish soldiers among the group to identify themselves. To a man, they all refused to give their religion or to point out which of their buddies were Jewish. Some of the men even took steps to protect their friends' religious identity from being discovered, such as falsely giving their religion as Protestant or making them throw away dog tags with the letter H (for "Hebrew"). However, this refusal to discriminate on the basis of religion and their repeated statements that they were all Americans, not Jews, Catholics, or Protestants, enraged the Germans, and they took several hundred of them prisoner. Only about 80 of the men in this group were actually Jewish; the rest were chosen mostly because they had "Jewish-sounding" names (for example, a number of German names, like Miller/Muller, can go either way), or because they "looked" Jewish (as though the physical features many people associate with Jews of Eastern European descent, such as dark curly hair, aren't shared in common with people such as the Italians, and as though there aren't many Jews who have features like blonde hair, green eyes, or red hair).
What lay in store for these unfortunate men was a living nightmare, not only an obvious violation of all human dignity, decency, and basic humanity, but also, as they were soldiers, a complete violation of the rules worked out under the Geneva Convention. Under the Geneva Convention, one was not allowed to ask a POW anything other than his name, rank, and identification number, but the Nazis were asking them questions such as what their religion and mother's original last name were. The men were shocked at the horrific conditions in the Berga camp and the grueling barbaric backbreaking labor they were forced to endure in a salt mine, as well as at the prisoners who were already there, some of whom were just children. They couldn't believe such things were allowed to happen in the civilised world. The prisoners in turn were equally shocked to see American soldiers now numbering among their ranks. These POWs had no special privileges or comforts granted to them on the basis of their nationality or military status; they were treated the same way as all of the other prisoners. They were beaten, murdered, made to work in that salt mine, counted at roll call, made to drink soup made from a terrible concoction of ingredients, and forced to sleep in the same cramped dirty cold unhygienic quarters. They were also forced on the death march along with all of the other prisoners. By the time of the liberation, many of them had already died. Though they were very glad to see their own men again, and many of them were very weak and sick, they were also burning with hatred for what had been done to them, unable to forgive. One of the veterans being interviewed talks about how his first post-liberation request was for a gun, so he could drive after the fleeing Germans and kill the ones who had done this to him, and so that he could go back to work as a soldier, which was what he still considered himself.
Shot entirely in black and white (even the modern-day interview segments), the film is directed by the late Charles Guggenheim, who is very well-known in the documentary genre. The film opens with a panning shot of his company from WWII, some of them men who died overseas, some of them men who came back. Mr. Guggenheim himself did not see active service, as he got an infection in his foot shortly before his unit was to have shipped out, and the infection turned out to be so bad that he wasn't able to join his mates. However, as is discussed in the conversation between him and David McCullough (one of the bonus features), it really helped in the project that he was of the same generation of the survivors he was interviewing, as well as a veteran himself. They could more easily relate to him than if he'd been some much-younger film-maker who was completely detatched from that shared experience of WWII. It's also pointed out that the average American, of that generation or not, will be easily able to relate to this story, because these survivors are native-born Americans, who speak perfect unaccented English, who could be their nextdoor neighbors. They're not European-born survivors with heavy accents, who didn't grow up in America and who were put in the camps for radically different reasons, people whom some might not be able to fully relate to because they come from such a different background. This is a powerful story of the will to survive and is yet more proof that all stories of the Shoah are unique, different, and in need of telling, not just, as some detractors seem to believe, just the same story told over and over again but with different names and locations."