BBC The Nazis A Warning From History (1997) s01e06 Episode Script

Part 6

Italy was the birthplace of fascism.
So an alliance between the fascist government in Rome and the Nazis in Berlin had seemed natural.
But on 19th July, 1943, the unthinkable happened - Rome was bombed.
By 1943, nearly 200,000 Italian soldiers were dead or missing.
The Italian alliance with Nazi Germany had resulted in nothing but disaster.
During the four years of war, more or less, Italy was practically half-destroyed.
And everybody understood that the war was lost.
And, of course, everybody was thinking that Italy had to get out and not to stay with Mussolini.
On the night of 24th July, 1943, the Fascist Grand Council met and expressed its lack of confidence in Mussolini.
They voted for the King to regain control of the armed forces.
Benito Mussolini had been the first fascist dictator, his success an inspiration to Hitler, but now the Italians had had enough of him.
The King summoned Mussolini here to the Villa Savoya on 25th July, 1943.
Mussolini was told he was dismissed as Prime Minister of Italy.
He walked down the hall out of the King's villa at 5.
20 in the afternoon.
As soon as he set foot outside, Mussolini was arrested by the Italian police and taken to prison.
The Italians were jubilant.
Now they were free of Mussolini and could change to the winning side.
The new Italian government first surrendered and then, in October, 1943, declared war on its former ally, Nazi Germany.
Not very honourable, certainly.
Whenever youyou betray a friend, an ally, it's not very noble, but it happens, it happens.
We are more realistic sometimes than the Germans are, no? Of course, being more realistic, we are not faithful to the present chief, no? I don't say it is a noble thing, but it isit is our character.
(NARRATOR) If the Italians were capable of removing Mussolini in 1943, when they saw how the war was going, why couldn't the Germans remove Hitler? Why were they fighting to the end? The first task facing anyone in removing Hitler was gaining access to him, and that was not easy.
For most of the war, Hitler hid himself here at the Wolf's Lair in what was then German East Prussia, protected by minefields, barbed wire and his loyal SS bodyguard.
Discussions with his generals dominated his time, and deep into the war the Führer had still not lost his ability to dominate those around him by the force of his personality.
At that time, I .
respected him.
I mean, I He impressed me and made me tense.
Whenever I was near him, I was prepared, in every respect, to watch out.
But the flair Hitler had was .
He could, he could Somebody who was almost ready for suicide, he could revive him and make him feel that he should carry the flag and die in battle.
Very strange.
But by the end of 1943, it was clear that Germany was losing the war.
In November, 1942, the area of territory controlled by the Nazis and their allies had reached its peak.
Just over a year later, as 1943 ended, Soviet forces were making huge advances in the East.
The British and Americans were fighting their way up through Italy, and Allied forces were gathering for D-Day, the invasion of France, but it was in the war in the East that the Germans suffered their greatest losses.
4 million German troops and their allies faced a Soviet force of more than 6 million.
Hitler had said this would be a different war, a war of annihilation, and this was a crucial reason why the Germans fought to the end, for in the East the Nazis believed they were fighting sub-humans.
Behind German lines, partisans resisted the Nazi occupation and were summarily executed wherever they were found.
This partisan war gave the Nazis an easy excuse to hang and shoot anyone they didn't like the look of.
German forces, unlike their Italian allies, committed countless atrocities in the East.
This massacre of Polish prisoners in Lublin was carried out by the SS in July 1944.
But not only the SS and security police killing squads committed atrocities.
Many Wehrmacht units, too, were deeply implicated in the barbarism.
This war of annihilation made it harder for some to remove Hitler - the man ultimately responsible for this.
Almost all the Nazi Party hierarchy, like these Gauleiter, knew and approved of the criminal killings.
And there was another reason why the Nazi leadership found it hard to conspire against their Führer.
From the very beginning, Hitler had encouraged personal enmity among his favourites, often by appointing two people to the same job and then watching them fight.
It was a leadership where almost everybody hated and distrusted everybody else.
GÃring disliked Speer, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and Bormann.
Goebbels had little time for either GÃring, Ribbentrop or Bormann.
Ribbentrop couldn't stand any of them and none of them could stand him.
The entire Nazi leadership was riven by dislike and suspicion as they fought each other for Hitler's praise and favour.
That left the military leadership, but they too had agreed to the killing of Communist commissars in the East and felt bound by their oath of loyalty, so any strike against Hitler was certain to alienate some of them.
A conspiracy was only possible under conditions of great secrecy.
Finally, a year after Mussolini's overthrow, one senior officer did come forward.
On 20th July, 1944, in the most famous attempt on the Führer's life, Klaus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler.
Stauffenberg was the only one who said, "I am prepared to do it.
" But my opinion was always that it could only succeed if the man who tried to kill him killed himself at the same moment.
The way the Palestinians do it now in Israel, do you see? Self-sacrifice, or kamikaze.
Stauffenberg left a bomb in his briefcase in the conference room on this spot at the Wolf's Lair, then hurried to Berlin.
At 12.
42 p.
on 20th July, 1944, the bomb exploded as Hitler was being briefed by his military commanders.
Karl Boehm-Tettelbach was in his own office nearby.
When I stepped into the office, my colleague said, "Did you hear that?" Suddenly, there was a big boom.
"Did you hear that?" Four or five minutes later on, we saw out of the window the SS in battle uniform surrounding our barracks.
I said, "Isn't that funny?" The bomb destroyed the conference room, but the blast was dispersed by the wooden walls and Hitler escaped with only minor injuries.
Now the search was on for all those who had conspired in this attempt.
But by no means every German officer had supported the plot.
Nobody approached me because they knew that I wouldn't break my oath.
They knew from the very beginning that I would stick.
Luckily, nobody would approach me because I was Air Force and the Air Force was not involved.
If you had been approached, what would you have said to Stauffenberg? To Stauffenberg? I would have said, "I'm going to report to Hitler that you want to kill him.
" Ja.
I had no other choice.
If I would have stayedstayed quiet, they would put me down in a little notebook and I would be shot.
All my comrades who were all shot, they didn't speak.
Stauffenberg couldn't speak, Mertz, and Haeften, the ADC, they were shot immediately.
The other ones whom I worked with, they were later on condemned to death, but they didn't give away my name.
I owe my life to them.
Even under torture, they didn't give away the names.
In the early hours of 21st July, Hitler spoke on radio to the German people.
Hitler visited the officers who had been injured in the blast.
The propaganda newsreel expressed official joy at the Führer's survival and hatred for those who had tried to kill him - feelings shared by many.
The roots of Hitler's popularity, carefully nurtured by Goebbels over the previous 11 years, went deep.
These letters home from the front line reveal what many soldiers felt.
Though letters like this were censored, there was no need for them to refer to Stauffenberg and the plot unless they wanted to.
"There's a deep disgust about this crime" "The honour of the Officer Corps is under attack through Stauffenberg" "The attempt on the Fuhrer's life marks a sad chapter in German history.
" Hitler ordered that the armed forces be drawn deeper into the Nazi fold.
Propaganda images of this perfect Nazi world, showing the young members of the Master Race, hid another truth.
Unlike Italy, Germany had become a racist state.
Almost all Germans profited from racism for, as the war progressed, the German economy relied not so much on the work of the Hitler Youth as on the sweat and toil of forced labour from the so-called inferior races of the conquered territories.
It was horrible to take a young boy, a child, from the family, escort him and put into forced labours and being .
He awoke me at 5 o'clock.
I had to go to the work in a barn, in a stable, polish the horses.
They had two horses and, I believe, six cows, pigs And then, after I had done all this, to go to the fields, to work in the fields - it was spring - to prepare everything.
Well, I never cried as much as at that time.
The last I would say the last months of my childhood passed this way.
By August, 1944, there were more than 7,500,000 forced labourers working in the new Germany.
1,700,000 of them were Poles.
The half million slave workers from the concentration camps, mostly Jews, suffered even more than the Poles.
At least 35,000 of them worked at the chemical plant of IG Farben in Silesia.
The name of the camp these workers lived in has become infamous - Auschwitz.
But there were two types of camp here: concentration camps for slave workers and the extermination camp with its gas chambers.
All new arrivals were selected to go to one or the other.
Arriving at Auschwitz, we were separated.
I remember the selection.
I came.
"What are you? What's your profession?" "I am a mechanic.
" "To the right.
" "What are you?" "I am a doctor.
" "You must learn to work!" He hit him.
And so on.
Women with children and men with children to the left and the others to the right.
And I was thinking, the fool that I was, they were going into a family camp.
In the gas chambers.
Andwe were taken by a truck, it was 2 o'clock in the morning, and we came into thecamp.
This is This was the camp of the IG Farben.
And the people there said, "You are now in a concentration camp.
"To go out from here ".
through the chimney.
" (NARRATOR) Selection for the work camp meant only a temporary postponement of death.
One Nazi doctor later estimated that life expectancy for slave labourers of Auschwitz was three months.
we went to work in lines of five men and groups.
I always tried to be in the middle, not to be hit from the SS, and that helped.
I am not a man who says, "I must do some things, some sabotage, or something.
" No.
I wanted to stay alive.
I wanted to live and to see Germany destroyed, the Nazism destroyed.
The majority of Germans may not have known of the true realities of Auschwitz, but all knew their country had become a racist state.
The Nazis consistently said that every true German was a superior being, something this propaganda film, made in 1944, was designed to illustrate.
But this belief that they were superior made it harder to accept losing the war.
Perhaps, the Nazis thought, they simply didn't have enough superior beings in their army.
So they tried to recruit racially acceptable foreigners into the Waffen SS.
400,000 foreigners joined the Waffen SS and fought alongside the Germans.
Many were motivated by one reason.
Jacques Leroy was badly injured in battle and lost an eye and an arm.
A few weeks later, he begged to be allowed to rejoin his regiment.
The SS agreed.
He carried on fighting.
It wasn't just on the front line that the Germans were losing the war.
As the war entered its last phase, Allied bombing of Germany intensified.
In the last 15 months of the war, 350,000 Germans died as a result of the bombing raids - three times more than in the previous three years of the war put together.
The British bombers were called by the Germans at that time, under the influence of Goebbels And they hated them and it was no fun to become If you bailed out of the bomber and came down on the ground, never you know what will happen.
Germans may have hated the bombing, but it did not break their will to fight on.
Men like Wolf Falck believed the Allies would not stop the bombing until Germany was destroyed as an industrial power.
It was decided to destroy Germany, so we have nothing to lose.
we have nothing to lose.
And so we fought for our people, for our country, to protect them.
There was an even more powerful reason to keep fighting - a dread of the advancing Soviet forces.
Both sides had committed atrocities against each other.
But now the supposed sub-humans were forcing the German Army to retreat.
Not only propaganda newsreels tried to put the retreat in the best light.
So did Nazi guidance officers attached to each unit - men like Walter Fernau.
As Walter Fernau was exhorting fellow Germans to continue fighting, so was the Nazi Propaganda Minister and Berlin Gauleiter, Joseph Goebbels.
In November, 1944, he addressed the Volkssturm, the German Home Guard.
Six million men were in the Volkssturm, mostly those who were thought too old or too young for military service.
All were told that they were the last bastion against the Bolshevik horde.
The majority of the Italians had only fought the British and the Americans.
Nazi propaganda said the Russians were an entirely different sort of enemy, sentiments echoed by Hitler the last time he ever broadcast to the German people, on 30th January, 1945.
But it wasn't just fear of the Russians that kept the Germans fighting - it was fear of other Germans.
In the last months of the war, Nazi terror against German civilians increased dramatically.
In the town of Zellingen, alongside the River Main, a local farmer discovered what happened if you criticised the local Nazis.
On March 25th, 1945, the Volkssturm paraded in front of the parish church.
They were exalted to continue the struggle, to fight on to the end.
One man who sniggered lived on the edge of the parade ground.
His name was Karl Weiglein, a local farmer with a reputation as something of a hothead.
Zellingen was separated from its sister town of Retzbach by the River Main, so Weiglein was less than pleased when, two days later, local Nazis blew up the connecting bridge to prevent its use by the approaching Allies.
Weiglein said they ought to be hanged.
Unfortunately, one of them overheard the remark and Weiglein was arrested.
A court-martial was called and Walter Fernau was told to act as prosecutor.
The court-martial was held in a house around the corner from the parade ground.
A trumped-up charge of sabotage was quickly added against Weiglein, and after a brief hearing, while they prepared the hangman's noose outside, Walter Fernau made a final submission to the court.
Karl Weiglein was taken round the corner to a nearby tree.
There his head was put into a noose as his wife watched from their house a few feet away.
A neighbour heard what happened next.
Karl Weiglein was just one of thousands of victims of these flying court-martials.
For his part in Weiglein's death, Walter Fernau later served six years in prison.
The ruins of Berlin now became Hitler's final bolt hole as the Soviet Army advanced further west.
Even Goebbels' propaganda could not now conceal the reality - the Führer was a physical wreck.
Yet even in these last desperate months, Hitler remained the undisputed leader.
The Italians had turned to their king when they had grown sick of Mussolini, but in Germany Hitler held all the levers of power.
He was Germany's head of state as well as her chancellor.
The price the Germans paid because Hitler remained their leader became heavier each day the war continued.
Hitler had told his generals to close their hearts to pity and act brutally.
The advancing Soviet troops showed they too had learned this Nazi lesson.
On the very last day of Hitler's life, April 30th, 1945, Soviet troops moved into the East German town of Demmin and destroyed it.
The Germans were reaping the consequences of the suffering their army had sown in the East.
Waltraud Reski was 11 when the Soviet soldiers came.
She saw what the Russians did to the women, including her own mother.
Sooner than endure the Soviet occupation, more than 900 people in Demmin committed suicide.
Hundreds drowned themselves here in the rivers which surround the town.
It was Hitler and the Nazis who had brought this suffering on Germany.
Now the Führer, too, was to take his own life, but only when Soviet troops were yards away from him.
He shot himself shortly before 3.
30 on the afternoon of 30th April, 1945.
Nazism had been destroyed, but at a terrible cost.
There were many reasons the Germans, unlike the Italians, fought to the end - an inability to rid themselves of Hitler and a fear of the approaching Soviet forces, people they had been taught to believe were scarcely human.
Hitler had said that when he died he would leave a great and strong Germany behind him.
Instead, he left a very different legacy - new knowledge of what human beings are capable of.
The German-born philosopher Karl Jaspers, himself persecuted by the Nazis, wrote after the war, "That which has happened is a warning.
"To forget it is guilt.
"It was possible for this to happen
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