Monday, May 31, 2004


Memorial Day

Not having an especially high tolerance for violence, nevertheless I decided that this Memorial Day I would watch some films and documentaries on World War II. I honestly can't remember how much I learned about WWII history in highschool, and I never had the chance during my undergraduate years to take a class that discussed either WW in any depth. It's inspired me to learn more; I've started reading John Keegan's The First World War, since so much of WWII finds its antecedents there, and then I plan to move on to Keegan's book on the second WW.

Over the last week or so, I've watched Midway, The Desert Fox, In Harm's Way (which I can't say I recommend--very superficial), and The Longest Day. I'm particularly interested in films made during or immediately after the war--if anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way. I've seen a few documentaries, one on the attempted assasination of Hitler that reenacted the attempt, demonstrating that but for a few small unexpected contingencies the attempt would have worked, and one on the Japanese attempt to build a railway line through Burma that resulted in thousands of Allied prisoner of war deaths as well as three times as many native Burmese and Malaysian deaths; unfortunately, I don't recall what stations aired these, though it must have been either PBS or Discovery, since Winston and I can't afford anything other than basic cable at the moment.

The upshot of all of this is that I have a deep and profound admiration for those who gave their lives for freedom, including those like Rommel who recognized the futility of the war and made the ultimate sacrifice to try and stop it, for the sake of all peoples. How anyone can have the despicable audacity to compare any foibles of American leadership to Nazism...I have no words...

Rommel's anti-Hitler activism came rather late in the day. There are other Germans who are less-well known that Rommel and Stauffenberg (at least to Americans) and who deserve a great deal of credit, including:

1)The White Rose, a group of college kids. There's an excellent movie (German w/English subtitles), as well as several books about them.

2)Colonel Hans Oster, who was one of the earliest military figures in the resistance--in 1940, he divulged the German invasion plan to Dutch intelligence. Deserves a major biography, but I don't think there is one.

3)General Ludwig Beck, who was Chief of Staff and resigned because of his opposition to the projected invasion of Czechoslovakia--later a member of the Stauffenberg conspiracy.
Thanks for the references, Anon. What's the title of the film about the White Rose? I couldn't track it down on either Nexflix or IMDB. Interesting that they chose the same name as the Scottish resistance against England....
The film was called simply "The White Rose." Amazon has it under their VHS category.

Didn't mean to be anonymous, it's those $@(#@2! Blogger comments. I'm actually:
Try the HBO Band of Brothers series, it's from the book written by Stephen Ambrose and it is very well done.
As for the anonymous comments: your name will show up if you log into Blogger before commenting, but the name will only reveal who you are and the name of your blog if you enable your Blogger profile to be read by the public at large.

If Blogger doesn't create a better comment system within the next six months or so, I'll bite the bullet and switch over to Typepad. Right now I just don't have the time or the money to do it.
For the White Rose, start here:

"The White Rose should be studied by everyone, and their story should be made known because someday, there will be a time when the world will need a White Rose to bloom again."
One documentary to look for is "The World at War", produced by Thames television. Laurence Olivier narrates the entire series -- 26 episodes. Each episode covers a specific aspect of the war and is about an hour long. Some of the titles are:
A NEW GERMANY : 1933 - 1939, DISTANT WAR : 1939 - 1940,

It was made in 1974, far enough away to get some perspective but close enough that some of the important people are still alive. I remember that Albert Speer is interviewed for several episodes, as are several high-up Japanese leaders.

The Eye of Vichy is a great documentary about France's collusion with the Nazis in WW2, with alot of old footage of French pro-Nazi propaganda films. Triump of the WIll is another good one.
I highly recommend the documentary series "The World at War" which has a host of interviews and original footage. I bought the series on DVD and have used snippets in teaching a four-week segment on World War II. Other WW2 films to watch include "A Bridge Too Far" (read the book by Cornelius Ryan while you're at it) and "Tora, Tora, Tora" which covers the Japanese endeavour in the Pacific without overglorification.

"The Battle of Britain" is pure garbage. Give it a miss.

If you're looking for excellent wartime footage, you really ought to see the Academy Award-winning documentary made of El Alamein: Desert Victory. It's available in many campus collections.
Contrary to Janice, I consider "Battle of Britain" quite accurate and a good movie. It presents some aspects of the air battles from the German standpoint.
Another excellent movie, little seen in the US, is a 1993 German/Russian film, "Stalingrad." definitely worth a viewing.
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