Tag Archives: World War II

Night and Fog

Deadly French short film “Night and Fog” (1956) on the horrors of the concentration camps of the world war II.

The documentary is in a narrative form and it has used many shocking actual videos and photographs besides showing contemporary images of the concentration camps, the gas chamber, the buildings, the structures etc. Footages from the trains ferrying the inmates to the camps, their living conditions, the bunks, the toilets. Some live images of Himmler is also there in the film where he is asking his people to focus on destruction.

The visuals and videos are disturbing to say the least. They show us the horrors of the war in its brutal form. There is a surgical room where experiments are carried out on inmates.

I also saw a 9 hour documentary Shoah also focusing on the survivors of the concentration camps and detailing their experience.

This haunting documentary is made by Alain Resnais, The scripwiter Jean Cayol is a survivor of the Mauthusen-Gusen concentration camp.

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Hornett Flight

Outstanding fast paced world war II espionage/ spy thriller from Ken Follett.

Eighteen year old Harald Olufson a bright kid with a lot of potential and likes to tinker with machines and engines. One day while returning home he does a short cut through an army camp of Nazis in the island of Sande to find some unusual kind of disc like equipment.

Meanwhile there is an underground Danish resistance movement against the Nazis a secret group called Nighwatchmen involving a group of Danish men and women. The British were losing a lot of their fighters due to German technical air superiority and a radar system which the British did not have at that time. Hermia Mount is the British officer directly involved in this espionage activity. She has a Danish boyfriend and speaks Danish language well, having lived there for many years.

Their main goal is to take photograph of the radar system of the Germans so that British can work on it to prevent their losses. Paul Kirke is the Danish air force commander who gives Harald his first flying lesson in a Tiger Moth airplane. Karen Duchwitz is a ballet student and her parents are Jewish and own a property in Sande, which includes an old disused Hornet Moth.

How Harald and Karen risk their lives to fly the photographs across 600 miles into Britain against some unrelenting Nazi fire is the rest of the story. Goodreads 5/5

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Shoah

A devastating 9 hour documentary Shoah (1985) made by Claude Lanzmann giving first hand accounts of the survivors of the concentration camps in World War II.

Devastating, because of the horrors of the war narrated by the survivors, many of whom Jews from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Lithuania and had seen first hand the gas chambers, the trains which were used for deportations of Jews from many parts of Europe to places like Auschwitz – Birkenau, Dachau, Treblinka etc. Some of the interviews were with the Nazi officers themselves – one was clandestine, other was open and they also narrate their remorse and revulsion at what happened to thousands and thousands of Jews. Men, women, some of whom now settled in the US, Israel, Hungary, Czechoslovakia had trouble recalling the horrors they had witnessed and broke down. In the latter part, the documentary moves onto description about what happened in Warsaw ghetto, which again housed thousands and thousands of Jews in terrible conditions, waiting for deportation to the concentration camps and gas chambers.

This is one documentary, every human being should watch. The horrors of the war should not be forgotten.

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The Last of the Cockleshell Heroes

The Last of the Cockleshell Heroes by William Sparks, an autobiographical true story of bravery during World War II. Its an incredible story of raw courage in enemy territory by two British officers William Sparks and Major ‘Blondie’ Herbert Hasler. They were part of a secret mission sent to jeopardise enemy lines in France. It was an unusual raid, because it was a canoe borne raid. It was a foldable canoe which is why it was called cockleshell. Each canoe carried two marines and there were 5 teams in all. Their plan was to paddle along the Gironde river, sneak into Bordeaux port under cover of darkness and attach mines to the German boats lined up there. Out of the 5 canoes, three canoes were lost either shot or captured. Their ambush was successful as several German ships was destroyed. Sparks and Hassler then abandoned their canoe and walked more than 100 miles across enemy territory in extremely difficult and trying conditions to reach a French village changing locations several times during this rendezvous. They eventually met the Resistance team who took them to Spain for a debriefing. Out of the 10 member squad, only two came alive and successfully, to tell a tale of raw courage. Goodreads 5/5 

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The Pianist

Brilliant true story of a Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman recounting his horrors of the World War II. Szpilman played by Adrien Brody is a Polish Jew and an accomplished pianist in Poland. He and his family being Jews are targeted by the Germans and forced to move into a ghetto for all Polish Jews. They abandon their spacious home including a grand piano which Szpilman sells for 2000 zlotys. Then they are forced to move again and the family get separated and then united again and separated when all the Jews are put into a goods train and sent to Treblinka – this was the gas chamber, though it was not shown in the movie. None of the people in that goods train survived. Szpilman joins a labour gang and meanwhile comes to know of a Jewish resistance being planned. He flees the labour camp and moves from one safe house to another with the help of fellow musicians, till he gets into an abandoned building with no food and water. There he had almost given up hope when a German officer espies him but does not arrest him. Brody has done a super job as the victimised pianist for which he won the Oscars in 2002. Roman Polanski has done a super job and some of the brutality scenes of the Germans are really scary. Roman Polanski himself has been a war survivor having lost his mother and escaped from the Krakow ghetto to hide until the war was over.

Its that period of history which everybody would like to forget, yet it is there for all to see, the atrocities of war, the sufferings of human beings, the killings, brutality, mass extermination, starving, gas chamber, experimentation et al.

Wladislaw Szpilman lived through the horrors of the war and lived to tell his tale. He died in 2000 at the age of 88.

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Ashes and Diamonds

image taken from internet for representational purpose only, not with an intention to violating copyright

Brilliant Polish film by Andrzej Wajda made in black & white in 1958 in a post World War II scenario. Maciek (Zbignew Cibulski), Andrzej & Drewnowski all of them ex army soldiers, have been given the job of assassinating Szczuka who is a popular leader of the Workers Party. The film takes place in 1945 immediately after Germany surrender in the war and communists are beginning to take over Poland. The three of them fail in their attempt as they mistakenly shoot two other innocent people. They come to know of their blunder and flee back to city. There their commanding officer orders another hit on the man. They come to a hotel, where Maciek falls for a bar girl Krystyna ( Ewa Krzyzewska) while Drewnowski is flirting with the hope of a career job in the ministry in the new Poland. But he gets terribly drunk. And Andrzej has been told by his commanding officer to stay away this time and let Maciek do the job. Incidentally, Szczuka is also staying in the same hotel but he comes to know that his 17 year son has joined the underground group and has been arrested by the police. The climax is quite good, there is a band playing a difficult tune at 4.30 a.m in the morning, while all three make their separate ways but to a different destiny. Zbignew Cibulski and Ewa Krzyzewska have done good roles while others are OK. Andrzej Wajda made this film in 1958 when the communists had already entrenched themselves in Poland, so this is a kind of subtle dig at the communists.

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Slaughterhouse Five

It takes a while for me to get the hang of this book, but when i get it, its breathtaking in its scope. Billy Pilgrim is in the midst of it, he is everywhere, kicked by everybody, stamped at, abused, ridiculed, he survives a plane crash, alien abduction is his safety net to go to. He is kicked by Roland Weary and abused by Professor Rumfoord yet for him the most important was that he was there in Dresden when they fire bombed the city to dust, yet he survived. At times you feel Kurt Vonnegut is Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut takes the reader to Dresden much later in the book, his disgust for the war is apparent. Billy Pilgrim survives the war, becomes rich, loses his head, loses his wife, time travels from one year to another recollecting tales in his head, becomes enamored of a failed writer Kilgore Trout, meets him, helps him, goes to Tralfamadore, becomes a zoo subject. Kurt Vonnegut is scathing and funny at the same time. But it all comes down squarely to Dresden, he keeps coming back to Dresden all the time. Brilliant in its scope, pulsating, funny and his angst at Dresden is shown throughout the book. Goodreads 5/5

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Grave of the fireflies

A Japanese animation movie (1988) that is unlike any animation movie you must have seen. Most of the animation movies are happy or playful characters for children amusement. This is the first time i am watching a serious animation movie. It is in fact an emotionally gut wrenching movie of two siblings Seita and his little sister Setsuko in the dying days of the world war II in Japan. Their house is bombed in a war raid, their mother dies, they move to an aunt place to live. The aunt develops animosity towards these two children after some time, so the kids are forced to move out to live in a bomb shelter, with food being rationed they find it difficult to survive. Setsuko starts getting increasingly ill and Seita increasingly concerned about her. The love and care between the two siblings is beautifully and poignantly bought out. It is a very tough movie to watch towards the end. The animation is beautifully done by the Japanese studio Ghibli.

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A Flock of Ships

A gripping World War II thriller by Brian Callison. British navy ship Cyclops from the Liverpool yard along with its two escorts Mallard and Athenian are carrying valuable cargo and traversing the Atlantic Ocean on the way to Australia. Unknown to its officers, its wireless transmission and ranks has been infiltrated through subterfuge and spies. The story is told in the first person account by the First Mate whose handwritten log was found in a deserted alcove on the Cyclops in a dilapidated and broken down condition somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean along with its escort ship Athenian and two German U-boats. Its a thrilling, gripping saga written in the Alistair Maclean style using a lot of nautical lingo. Goodreads 5/5

It was apparently Brian Callison’s first book published in 1970 He has written other books mainly sea stories.

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June 3, 2020 · 8:28 am

Strike from the Sky

Strike from the Sky by Alexander McKee – one of the best books on the Battle of Britain fought in 1940 over Great Britain. Had it not been for the British air force fighters and their stubbornness, Germany would have won this battle of Britain between July to September 1940 since Germany had better air superiority than Britain at that time but it was British refusal to give up that resulted in defeat for Germany. Battle of Britain probably turned the tide against Germany because previously France and other European nations had meekly caved in.

Adolf Galland, a German commander of that time quotes in the book “Indisputably, Germany had air superiority at this time, but the decimated English fighter units flew with stubborn courage. The battle put up by the British fighter pilots deserves the highest admiration. In numbers, often inferior, untiring, fighting bravely, it was they who, in this most critical part of the war, undoubtedly became the saviors of their country”

at page 254, “Under the often casual and superficially modest air which the British wear in public, they are an extremely proud and arrogant nation. They believed they were unbeatable, in any circumstances, by any force on earth. They had been seriously annoyed by suggestions that they were decadent, but were not prepared to resort to argument. They had been incensed by the assumption, amongst both friend and foe after the fall of France, that their end was near; they were not prepared to argue that either. And fortunately – gloriously- even enjoyably – there was no need to do so. The situation provided them with the opportunity of proving everyone else resoundingly wrong by direct action. It was with almost savage pride that they set out to resist what seemed an overwhelmingly powerful and triumphant enemy. It was this feeling which gave that summer its epic quality, and it was this feeling which won the battle.”

German air attack against Britain was a precursor to their sea attack and land invasion against Britain, to batter down their defences to make it easy to invade that country. Refusal of British air force fighters to give up resulted in Germany looking eastwards to Russia which was to prove their nemesis in World War II.

 

 

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Aftermath: The Remnants of War

https://www.idfa.nl/en/film/a5e99788-3bf0-40d5-a5f1-51b48f7f0161/aftermath-the-remnants-of-war

 

Heart rending documentary on the aftermath of war – the mines in the France Germany border from the world war II, the dead bodies in the war of Stalingrad in what was the final push of Nazis, the terrible Agent Orange inflicted by US on an unsuspecting Vietnam, the mines from the Siege of Saravejo, in 1992-93.

Terrible impact of the war on millions of people, many years after the war has ended. Children in Vietnam were born with deformities even many generations after the war ended due to dioxyn the most terrible herbicide sprayed by the US forces to flush out the communists from the Vietnamese jungles. The price of war is paid by innocent citizens of many countries.

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