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Although constrained by powerful isolationist sentiment in the United States, President Roosevelt was determined to help democratic Great Britain continue the war against Nazi Germany. Even as he promised to keep the United States neutral in the European war, Roosevelt ordered the expansion of military construction and pledged--as shown in this footage--that the United States would serve as the "great arsenal of democracy." In March 1941, Congress approved Lend-Lease aid for Britain. Britain ultimately…
After word reached America of the Nazi killing of European Jewry, pressure mounted on the Roosevelt administration to help European Jews. To spur action, playwright Ben Hecht prepared a memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, "We Will Never Die." The pageant, sponsored by the Zionist Revisionist Bergson Group, was part of a mass demonstration at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Later seen in other US cities, the show was part of the Bergson Group's effort to pressure Washington to act…
The Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 (Operation "Barbarossa"). German forces occupied Vitebsk in the northeastern region of Belorussia on July 11. Soviet forces seized the initiative from the Germans after the battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. The Soviet army liberated Vitebsk on June 26, 1944, during their summer 1944 offensive. This footage shows military units involved in the fighting and German soldiers captured during the campaign. By the end of the summer, the Soviet…
In June 1944, the Soviet Union launched a massive offensive against the German army in eastern Europe. Soviet forces liberated Vilna in July 1944, after bitter street fighting with the German garrison. They then continued on toward Kovno, the capital of Lithuania. This Soviet footage depicts the battle for Vilna and the final liberation of the city by the Soviet army.
After the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945, Vice President Harry S. Truman became president of the United States. Here, President Truman meets with the heads of state of the Soviet Union and Great Britain (Joseph Stalin, Winston S. Churchill, and later Clement Attlee) in Potsdam, near Berlin, to discuss the future of defeated Germany. The leaders agreed to the partition of Germany and Berlin, Germany's capital city, into four zones of occupation: British, French, American, and Soviet.…
The Buchenwald camp was one of the largest concentration camps. The Nazis built it in 1937 in a wooded area northwest of Weimar in central Germany. US forces liberated the Buchenwald camp on April 11, 1945. When US troops entered the camp, they found more than 20,000 prisoners. This footage shows scenes that US cameramen filmed in the camp, survivors, and the arrival of Red Cross trucks.
US forces liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in April 1945. Here, US soldiers escort German civilians from the nearby town of Weimar through the Buchenwald camp. The American liberating troops had a policy of forcing German civilians to view the atrocities committed in the camps.
US forces liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. This footage records examples of Nazi atrocities (shrunken head, pieces of tattooed human skin, preserved skull and organs) discovered by the liberating troops.
This footage shows Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister for propaganda and public education, speaking at the September 1935 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. In the speech, Goebbels--a fanatic antisemite--linked Bolshevism with international Jewry and warned Nazi party members of an alleged international Jewish conspiracy to destroy western civilization. Goebbels led the purge of Jewish and other so-called "un-German" influences from the cultural institutions of Nazi Germany.
In response to growing international awareness of Nazi atrocities, the Nazis decided to allow a Red Cross investigation committee to visit the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Elaborate measures were taken to disguise conditions in the ghetto and to portray an atmosphere of normalcy. This footage, showing an orchestral performance, is part of a German propaganda film made following the Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt.
This footage shows German forces entering the Sudetenland. Under the terms of the Munich Pact, Germany annexed this largely German-speaking region from Czechoslovakia. Germany, Italy, Britain, and France were party to the pact, which averted war. Czechoslovakia, however, was not permitted to attend the Munich conference. Hitler later violated the Munich Pact by destroying the Czech state in March 1939.
The Treaty of Versailles, imposed on Germany following its defeat in 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 to Germany became a central focus of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. After the invasion of Poland, Germany unilaterally annexed Danzig. This German newsreel…
In this German newsreel footage, Hitler addresses members of the SA and the SS in the Sportpalast, a sports arena in Berlin, Germany. He thanks them for their support and sacrifice during the Nazi struggle for power.
This footage shows the Reichstag (German parliament) building on the day after it was set on fire. While the origins of the fire on February 27 are still unclear, Hitler blamed Communists for the incident. The Reichstag Fire Decree of February 28, 1933, suspended constitutional guarantees. Communist and Socialist deputies were expelled from the parliament. Shortly after the decree was issued, the Nazis established concentration camps for the internment of political opponents.
On the night of February 27, 1933, an unemployed Dutch construction worker named Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to the Reichstag (German parliament) building, causing serious damage. The Nazis blamed the Communists for the fire and claimed emergency powers to crush all opposition. Bolstering Nazi claims, the police also arrested three Bulgarian members of the Communist International, who were in Germany at the time, and a leading German Communist. Despite Nazi claims, however, responsibility for the fire…
Denmark signed a nonaggression pact with Germany in 1939, hoping to maintain neutrality as it had in World War I. Germany, however, broke the agreement on April 9, 1940, when it occupied Denmark. King Christian X remained on the throne, and the Danish police and government reluctantly accepted the German occupation. This footage shows the German presence in the occupied Danish capital, Copenhagen. In 1943, as German policies towards Denmark toughened, the Danes would form one of the most active and…
During World War II , the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker relief organization, provided food, shelter, and other aid to thousands of Jewish refugees—especially Jewish children—in France. The Quakers were active throughout France, even in areas occupied by German forces. In this footage, Quaker relief workers feed children at one of the Quaker-established schools in Marseille in the unoccupied southern zone of France.
The Dachau concentration camp, northwest of Munich, Germany, was the first regular concentration camp the Nazis established in 1933. About twelve years later, on April 29, 1945, US armed forces liberated the camp. There were about 30,000 starving prisoners in the camp at that time. The film seen here was edited from original footage shot by Allied cameramen as liberating troops entered Dachau. It was discovered in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in 1984 and was never completed.
The Dachau concentration camp, northwest of Munich, Germany, was the first regular concentration camp the Nazis established in 1933. About twelve years later, on April 29, 1945, US armed forces liberated the camp. There were some 30,000 starving prisoners in the camp at that time. In this footage, soldiers of the US Seventh Army feed and disinfect survivors of the camp.
US forces liberated the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in April 1945. Here, survivors of the camp stand during the singing of "Hatikva" ("Hope") before Rabbi David Eichhoren, a US army chaplain, leads one of the first Jewish prayer services after liberation.
About a million Roma (Gypsies) lived in Europe before World War II. The largest Romani community—of about 300,000—was in Romania. This film shows a Romani (Gypsy) community in Moreni, a small town northwest of Bucharest. Many Roma led a nomadic lifestyle and often worked as small traders, craftsmen, merchants, laborers, and muscians.
This film excerpt from Groß-Stadt Zigeuner (1932) by filmmaker László Moholy-Nagy shows a Romani (Gypsy) campsite near Berlin, Germany, in the last year of the Weimar Republic. Although Roma (Gypsies) had faced persecution in Germany even before the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the Nazis regarded them as racial enemies to be identified and killed. Tens of thousands of Roma were killed by the Einsatzgruppen in eastern Europe or were deported to killing centers in occupied Poland.
Germany and its Axis allies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941. The Germans probably shot this film after they occupied southern Slovenia following the Italian armistice in 1943. The film was found in the Ustasa (Croatian fascist) archives after World War II and shows the dismal living conditions that Roma (Gypsies) endured in occupied northern Yugoslavia.
After British soldiers liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, they forced the remaining SS guards to help bury the dead. Here, survivors of the camp taunt their former tormentors, who prepare to bury victims in a mass grave.
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…
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