How could a political party as fundamentally evil and overtly racist as the Nazis come to power? This remains one of the most enigmatic questions of the last century. Acclaimed historian Laurence Rees examines what led a c... more »ultured nation at the heart of Europe to commit the atrocities it did. In so doing, he exposes popular myths and encourages understanding of the real forces that led to one of the darkest chapters in modern history. Was it simply the hypnotic power of Hitler's rhetoric? Did the Gestapo really impose themselves by terror on an unwilling population? Through interviews with witnesses and perpetrators, along with archive film and records, this six-part series unveils a more chilling reality.« less
"This series is very good a zeroing in on individual Nazis to show how ordinary people did terrible things within the framework of the larger state. It also does an excellent job of explaining the Nazi world view. It pays well deserved attention to the importance Hitler placed on "art" and culture as well as the way in which social Darwinism was twisted into a culture of lawlessness where the strong were encouraged to exploit, if not destroy, the weak.
Episode 4, "The Wild East," I found particularly thought provoking. Its portrayal of Gauleiter Arthur Grieser is disturbing and truly "A warning from history."
I highly recommend this series. "
An invaluable documentary
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 07/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Very good, engrossing, engaging - But misses very important
A. Hvatum | St.Louis, MO United States | 12/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Preface: Others have covered very well the many positive qualities of this series, so I'm going to focus on just a few points for the sake of brevity.
The Nazis - A Warning from History" sadly suffers from the same faults of most documentaries about the Nazis. It simply looks at the conditions that were prevalent in Germany, acknowledges the inequity of the treaty of Versailles, but fails to give all important perspective. Anti-semitism was not especially prevalent in Germany. France expelled the Jews hundreds of years prior and at the turn of the century had the Dryfus affair which exposed rampant french Antisemitism. Anti-Jew riots were still a annual occurrence around Europe. Germany only had such a large Jewish population because it was comparatively a very tolerant country!
More importantly, the documentary totally fails to appreciate how the allies very directly enabled the rise of the Nazi party. Towards the end of the war allied propaganda logically targeted German groups they thought less interested in fighting: Jews, Communists, Intelligentsia, Trade Unionists and Socialists.
The propaganda heavily played upon Wilson's 14 points. It was produced and spread by French, American and British agents. Groups in Germany which agitated for peace did so in good faith with the belief that these promises of a lenient peace would be upheld. They did so believing it was best for the country they truly loved and indeed fought for: Germany.
Of course, we know what happened. In America's case its forgivable, as they actually intended honor these promises. But France and England had no such intent, and brutally exploited the good will of these minority groups. From the beginning, they openly planned to betray these promises and extract huge concessions, knowing that once an armistice was signed the German army would not be able to resume fighting.
In Germany the theory that minority groups were guilty of betraying Germany was widespread, and indeed seemed justified. Today it is referred to as the "Dolchstosslegende," literally "stab in the back" myth. It is derided as being racist, this corner of history is therefore rarely mentioned. Germans desperately want to avoid anything that hints of racism, and the former "allied countries" hardly want to place yet more blame on themselves.
I feel this is a true shame, because this is one of the most important warnings the Nazis have to give and very few appreciate it. Indeed, during the the gulf war we encouraged ethnic agitation by the Kurds, with no real intent of actually giving Iraq a favorable peace treaty of any sort - they paid for our carelessness.
Furthermore, I think the utility of focusing on what happened under Nazi dictatorship is limited with regards to future prevention. History has shown us again and again that once a violent dictatorship establishes itself it is nearly always too late. Milgram's experiments showed that Americans will commit atrocities, we're humans just like Germans. The critical lessons are what lead to such dictatorships. Once a dictatorship such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Fascist Japan establishes itself, overthrow from within is nearly impossible.
There are many, many redeeming points of this series and I still highly recommend it. I also understand that most people do not see this same short coming - I can't blame them. You can hardly complain that something is not there when you don't even know you should be looking for it."
TXBulldog | Dallas,TX | 07/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't think I could add much more than what has been reviewed before me. This wonderful documentary had me glued to my tv throughout its entire run. I learned so much about how the nazi party got it's start. I had no clue before hand. I really liked how they showed where alot of these atrocities occured and then showed the exact places as they are today. Truly an errie experience and the sad silence of the places now. You truly can hear the echoes of the souls lost long ago. The interviews are very candid and show alot of people who to this day have no remorse what they were a part of. They still truly believe in Hitler and what he stood for. A must-see for everyone!"
Another BBC hit
P. Valdez | Philadelphia, USA | 07/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm very fond of BBC documentaries since they are deep, insightful and intelligent. This one does not fail to prove the former. From the very beginning of the program, we learn the reasons the Nazi party is born and Jewish people fall into disgrace with the non-Jewish Germans...I highly recommend this dvd. It's clear, to the point, interesting and instructive. What else can you ask of a documentary? Thanks to the BBC again."