In June 1941, Hitler broke the golden rule of warfare never to fight on opposite fronts and marched into the Soviet Union. What would drive him to make the most catastrophic mistake of World War II? This acclaimed four-par... more »t series investigates what led to the largest military operation in history - and the bloodiest. Assisted by leading historians and granted unique access to Eastern film archives and to both Soviet and German participants, War of the Century is the definitive series on a war that shaped the borders and attitudes of Europe for the second half of the 20th Century.« less
From Barbarossa to the fall of Berlin, a very good summary.
Dave | Tennessee United States | 05/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this on the History Channel several years ago and was quite impressed. There aren't enough WW2 documentaries on the eastern front and this one sheds new light on several areas of the conflict. For example, newly-declassified Soviet documents shown in this film prove that secret "peace talks" between Soviet and German officials did in fact take place and furthur more, evidence is shown that Stalin had refused to believe that Hitler would ever invade the Soviet Union after their peace pact was signed in 1939.
There is incredible footage shown of Barbarossa, including rare color scenes which I'd never scene before. Of course, famous battles like Stalingrad and Leningrad are covered, but I wish there'd been more coverage of lesser-known battles. But there's only so much you can show in 200 minutes. There are very interesting interviews with Russian and German soldiers and civilians, each one telling of their experiences in the brutal conflict in which millions lost their lives. Several of the veterans, both Russian and German, admit to killing innocent civilians and executing prisoners (one even says "What else could we do?").
The segment on the fall of Berlin was one of the most compelling in my opinion. One Russian veteran admitted that rival Russian units were competing to see who could take over the capitol first, and they even shot at each other! And of course, German civilians tell of the many rapes and murders committed by the Russian troops as they sought vengeance on the German population. On the other hand, Russian civilians tell of the many executions committed by the Germans, especially the feared SS units. Overall, I'd say that this documentary is one of the better ones on the eastern front and is recommended for both the novice and the historian."
S. M. Nofal | Madison, WI United States | 08/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It war of the twentieth century was fought in the Eastern Front. In terms of scale of men involved and in casualities, the Western Front pales in comparison. The man who did the most to defeat Adolph Hitler was not F.D. Roosevelt or Winston Churchill but Joseph Stalin.
This BBC documentary is very valuable because, being developed only a few years ago, it incorporates new, unclassified material. Although his secret agents told Stalin about a massive invasion on June 1941, Stalin did not believe it. So he made no plan for a possible attack from Germany. When operation Barbarrossa was launched, it took the Red Army by surprise. This documentary, unlike any other that I know of, shows that Stalin tried to negociate peace with Hitler --although to no avail.
The interviews in this documentary are also very moving: a general urging his son to take his leave befor the declacle of Stalingrad, a woman from the secret organization of SMERSCH candidly telling she would be considered a mass murderer in the West after carrying out orders to assassinate prisoners of war, a partisan guerrilla leader admitting he and his men did not take prisoners, and so forth. Perhaps, the most shocking detail of the documentary was the revelation that, at Stalingrad, the average life expenctancy of a Soviet soldier was merely 24 hours.
The documentary is impeccably edited."
The Bloody Eastern Front!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 12/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Whenever I think of the Second World War, the two places I usually think about in terms of carnage is the Eastern Front; and the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The other is the Pacific Campaign between the USA and Japan. One of the reviewers wrote, "I'm glad the Russian Won." So am I. And what a bloody war it was. The number of casualties and amount of destruction make what occurred in the others parts of the globe [except Asia] seem pale in comparison. The Russians suffered greatly at the hands of the Germans, and the German army paid one hell of a steep price.
Also, it was in the east where the Germans committed some of the most horrendous atrocities known to mankind. It was in the east where extermination camps were set up to murder millions of Jews: The German program of the 'Final Solution.' Everything I have ever read about the Second World War concerning the eastern front is one of brutality on a scope that is horrifically mind-boggling. It's as if life were cheap and each day may have been the last. This documentary does a very decent job in attempting to address the fighting between these two armies. From Barbarossa to Berlin, it is one of the best documenatries out there. At least for the 200 minutes that the film devotes to the eastern front. I don't believe this is the definitive documentary, as more and more information is being released now that the Soviet Union is no more. But for now, I highly recommend this film. [Stars: 4.5]"
The Most Catastrophic Episode of Human History....
A. Castillo | Long Beach, CA, USA | 10/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I think of the War on the EASTERN FRONT--of the TOTAL war waged between the German and Russian peoples from 1941 to 1945--I draw up a fantastic image in my mind's eye:
I see a panoramic landscape of melancholic chaos. The dark winter sky, illuminated by roaring artillery fire, and the rolling Russian steppe lands, littered with the burning hulks of destroyed tanks, and the earth drenched in the cogealing blood of tens of millions of dead soldiers and civilians.
This is what Laurence Rees' WAR OF THE CENTURY brings to light for those interested in gaining a general but intriguing understanding of the Russo-German conflict during the Second World War. What this documentary may lack in breadth of subject (i.e., blow-by-blow logistical order of battle info for each facet of the Eastern Front), the BBC production certainly makes up for in presenting primary sources: actual first-hand accounts and interviews from those Germans and Russians who were there.
Having watched this fascinating documentary several times now, I still take some new bit of insight or knowledge away with me after each new viewing. And for me, the most important revelation to me thus far regarding the Eastern Front War would have to be this:
Such conflicts of high atrocity and cruelty will continue to arise so long as selfish individuals, or gangs of selfish individuals--in positions of power--perpetuate them.
The war between Russia and Germany was essentially a war waged between Adolf Hitler/Nazi Party and Josef Stalin/Communist Party in an effort for each entity to secure their own greedy ambitions. Reinforced by strongly established military/para-military states, and the fact that two directly opposite socio-political ideologies could not be allowed to exist together (Nazism versus Bolshevism), the Soviet Union and the Third Reich were pre-ordained to clash to the death with each other.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED DOCUMENTARY!! NOT TO BE MISSED!!!"
Great Stand Alone
T. L. Reynolds | 09/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great stand alone eastern front documentary. If you are looking for a solid overview of the eastern front, this is your documentary. In America we skip the battle in the east and focus on the west, for obvious reasons. This documentary is worth your time. Great interviews. Get past the fact that this documentary was produced by the BBC."