American G.I.s Slave Laboring for Hitler...
Encompassed Runner | Florida, USA | 01/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ordinary in production, but extraordinary in subject matter, Berga documents for posterity the little known part of WWII history about American soldiers that instead of being treated as POWs were separated for suspicion of being Jewish or "undesirable" and sent to slave labor in a Buchenwald satellite concentration camp called Berga.
Real photos and footage combine with reenactments and interviews from surviving G.I.s to tell the story that includes days confined and bombed in a train on the way to Bad Orb and later Berga; identity issues surrounding the German demand for info beyond name, rank and serial number; separation and disparate treatment from other captured Americans; the leadership of G.I. Hans Klasten about whom the Germans said "there's only one thing more despicable than a Jew--it's a German who betrays his country"; and the various coping mechanisms and responses of the soldiers to what one calls a "vision of hell" and to their later liberation and lives.
Berga is an unpleasant but needed reminder of the contrast of human potentials--the capability for sadism such as forcing starving humans to toil in mines breathing in quartz-dust that cut the lungs so that they'd cough up pieces of lung and blood, contrasted with the capability of others like Klasten who to his own detriment refused to provide the Germans a list of Americans who were Jewish and took beatings rather than exchange information for bread.
Compelled to Write More
Dr Victor S Alpher | Austin, Texas, U.S.A. | 05/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I discovered I had not said a word about this excellent DVD from PBS, and must add to the other extant review because this film belongs in the library of ANYONE interested in front-line experience in war, as well as behind the line terror of the prisoner of war.
Late in World War II, it may well have been only the Air FOrce officers accorded any kind of Geneva-convention like respect behind Axis lines. However, as Berga makes clear, being an American was hardly much of a shield--and for a Jew to take a stand that he was simply an American was an act of death-defiance. While downed Tuskegee Airmen certainly had their own kind of heroism and American Identity to definem, Jewish (whether by religion or cultural identity) soldiers in American uniform had as much or more at stake behind the lines of Hitler's dream, Germania.
I am surprised that less is known about the sufferings of Allied soldiers as slave laborers, yet this too is presented in a sensitive, truthful manner. Today we argue about the separation of church and state, yet in WWII EVERY American soldier had to have a C, P, or H (that is Catholic, Protestant, or Hebrew) on is dog tag, to my knowledge. That is the defining feature of this film and what makes it great to present generations (and the more who see it, the better). I say this because, at that time, what defined all of us facing Fascism was that we were Americans, and there was little need to discuss what one believed theologically in a foxhole, trench, or ravine pinned-down by machine-gun fire. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but to my knowledge, that sample is biased because we only hear from the survivors. And that's all we'll ever know. BERGA prompts you to ponder what your thoughts might be about your co-religionists (or others) should you survive your horrific face with Death, and that is worth the time and trouble."
S. H. Margolies | Par-Troy, NJ USA | 02/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an amazing movie.
It is impossible to understand the Holocaust, but to relate to American GIs who happened to be Jewish who underwent somewhat similar treatment, but not for as long a period of time, is somewhat easier. It is difficult to put it into it into words. That Germans were allowed to do this to Jews in general to the extent of six million, and to captured American POWs, and then to escape retribrution is very difficult to understand.
The project that these American POWs were working on with little foood, and water, subjected to horrendous conditions, to a great extent was German rocketry. The German scientists, including Verner Von Braun were overseeing the construction of underground tunnels to build their rockets in for both experiments, and weapons of destruction. After World War II, they were considered too important to America's future rocket program to penalise in any way. They were hailed as heroes.
The guards and officers who tortured, and murdered the GI's depicted in the film were also forgiven, because within a few years after the end of World War II, it was felt that they were to important as allies against the Russsians. Therefore, we were asked to forgive the Germans. If you check the history books after World War II, most of the high german officals were released after serving short amounts of time in prison.
Gestapo, and SS murderers, like the ones who tortured the prisoners of Berga never faced retribution.
Supposedly, we are now supposed to forgive and forget what Germany did in the 1930's, and early 1940's. It is difficult while watching a documentary like Berga to forgive and forget. If during the film, you have a tendency to feel sad or cry, there is nothing wrong with it. It's something that we should never let happen again!"
My grandfather was in this movie
M. Demarco | Revere, Ma. | 04/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wanted to thank everyone who bought this and enjoyed it. My grandfather was a prisoner at Berga with these men. You can hear his voice as he talks about some of the horrific moments he witnessed while he was only 18. His name was John Griffin, and he passed away last month. He was not Jewish, he was of Irish descent. The Nazi's thought he was Jewish. Let me just say that if you like to watch real movies and documentaries about World War II then this is one of the best ones out there. It has the real life people that went through this ordeal on camera. Unfortunately, for my grandfather, Mr. Guggenheim did not bring his camera when he went out to interview my papa. But this is truly a remarkable story that needed to be told. Buy it, you will not be disappointed."