The German western campaign in May 1940 decisively defeated the British and French forces arrayed against it. By the end of May, the Allies began the withdrawal of British and French forces from the Continent to prevent their surrender or destruction. The evacuation effort centered on the French coastal town of Dunkirk. As German forces completed their conquest of France, more than 1,000 vessels--including small civilian yachts and fishing boats--ferried Allied forces across the English Channel to Great Britain. While enduring heavy air attacks, this makeshift armada succeeded in rescuing over 200,000 British and 100,000 French troops from the Continent. Britain hailed the evacuation as a victory, despite the decisive German military victory and the French decision to sign an armistice.
German troops entered Austria on March 12, 1938. The annexation of Austria to Germany was proclaimed on March 13, 1938. In this German newsreel footage, Austrians express overwhelming enthusiasm for the Nazi takeover of their country.
In an attempt to prevent the German annexation of Austria, Austrian chancellor Kurt von Schusnigg proposed a plebiscite on Austrian independence. This German newsreel footage shows pro-German residents of Graz expressing their opposition to the plebiscite. On the following day, March 13, 1938, the residents of Graz and other Austrian cities celebrated the resignation of the Austrian government and the proclamation of union with Germany (the Anschluss).
Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Soon thereafter, terror actions against opponents of Nazism began: Jews were a major target in these campaigns. Many Jews were subjected to public humiliation or arrest, and others were forced to quit their posts. Anti-Jewish measures climaxed with the April 1, 1933, boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. This footage depicts a Jewish anti-Nazi march in Chicago.
The American Jewish Congress was among the first groups in the United States to oppose Nazism. It held a mass rally as early as March 1933, soon after Hitler rose to power in Germany, and continued to hold rallies throughout the war years. The American Jewish Congress organized this anti-Nazi march through Lower Manhattan. The event coincided with book burning in Germany.
The Treaty of Versailles, imposed on defeated Germany following World War I, declared Danzig to be a free city jointly administered by Poland and the League of Nations. Germany bitterly resented the loss of this largely German city, which was also an important port on the Baltic Sea. The return of Danzig became a central feature of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy. This footage shows pro-German forces besieging a Polish garrison in Danzig's main post office. Germany annexed Danzig after the defeat of Poland in September 1939.
After the defeat of France in June 1940, Germany moved to gain air superiority over Great Britain as a prelude to an invasion of Britain. Despite months of air attacks, Germany was not able to destroy Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). In the fall of 1940, the invasion was indefinitely postponed. The German bombing campaign against Britain continued until May 1941. The Germans ultimately halted the air attacks primarily because of preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Benito Mussolini, leader of the Italian Fascist movement, was prime minister of Italy from 1922 until he was dismissed in July 1943. After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, German forces occupied northern Italy and installed Mussolini as head of a new pro-German government. In April 1945, as Allied forces advanced into northern Italy, Mussolini attempted to escape to neutral Switzerland. However, Italian partisans caught and executed him before he could reach the border. This footage is a brief survey of Mussolini's rise to power and rule.
As Allied forces approached Germany in late 1944 and early 1945, Bergen-Belsen became a collection camp for tens of thousands of prisoners evacuated from camps near the front. Thousands of these prisoners died due to overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, and lack of adequate food and shelter. On April 15, 1945, British soldiers entered Bergen-Belsen. They found 60,000 prisoners in the camp, most in a critical condition. This footage shows Allied cameramen filming the condition of the prisoners and the filthy conditions found in Bergen-Belsen after liberation.
In Berlin, Germany, officials from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan sign the ten-year Tripartite Pact (the Three-Power Agreement), a military alliance. The pact sealed cooperation among the three nations (Axis powers) in waging World War II. This footage comes from "The Nazi Plan," a film produced and used by the United States in the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials.
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