World War II: From the Frontlines (2023) s01e06 Episode Script

Episode 6

[windshield wipers clattering]
[woman in German] So many bombs fell.
We expected to die at any time.
We thought there was no way out.
[Adolf Hitler] Whatever our enemies
inflict on German cities
I expect every German
to fulfill his duties
until their last drop of strength.
I see victory ahead for Germany!
[intense music playing]
[narrator] The end of the Second World War
is finally in sight.
[Franklin Roosevelt]
1945 can see the closing in
of the Nazi reign of terror in Europe
and the malignant power
of imperialistic Japan.
[narrator] In the Pacific, American forces
are pushing back the Japanese,
one island at a time.
[newscaster] A report of a rapid advance
is thrilling and exciting news.
[narrator] While in Europe, the Allies
have reached Germany's borders.
[newscaster] American First Armies
advanced three miles today
and are now threatening
to outflank German positions
guarding the Cologne plain.
[narrator] But Japan and Germany
show no sign of giving up.
[Hitler] We are fighting today
to free our people from this crisis!
So, the Allies are considering
just what it will take to end the war.
[commentator] One bomb has
more power than 20,000 tons of TNT.
It is a harnessing
of the basic power of the universe.
[bell tolling]
After almost six years of global conflict,
the war is coming home to Germany.
Carola Stern lives with her mother
in a small town in northeast Germany.
Until now, they've escaped
the worst of the fighting.
[man speaking German over loudspeaker]
[Carola in German] I remember
Goebbels spoke on the radio and said,
"Germany will stay German!"
"Oh, God," my mother said.
"That's lucky!"
"We're saved!"
Then someone said,
"German tanks are coming!"
But they were Russian tanks!
[newscaster] Here is the latest news
on the war in Europe.
[newscaster 2] Another day
of spectacular gains for the Red Army.
[newscaster 3] Marshal Zhukov
is pouring thousands of tanks,
guns and men inside Germany.
[narrator] For Soviet platoon commander
Leonid Rozenberg, the war is personal.
[Leonid in Russian]
The burning feeling of hatred.
My mother, my brother, little sister
were shot dead by Germans.
[dog barking]
The thing we all dreamed
of was to get to Berlin!
[newscaster] Refugees by the thousands
continue to stream from the Russian front.
We imagine wild hordes from the east,
and no one would get away alive.
You lose everything it means to be human.
Then there's only one thing left:
the will to survive.
[newscaster] Russian armies are
23 miles from the German capital,
according to the enemy itself.
Adolf Hitler issued a special order
calling for a stand to the death
against the Soviet forces.
With the German military on its knees,
Berlin's last line of defense
is the Volkssturm,
a rag-tag people's army
made up of elderly men,
women and schoolboys.
[in German] Volkssturm soldiers of Berlin,
raise your right hand
and repeat after me.
I vow
I vow
that I for my fatherland
that I for my fatherland
will fight bravely
will fight bravely
and would rather die
and would rather die
than give up the freedom of my people.
than give up the freedom of my people.
Fifteen-year-old Hans Müncheberg
is among the volunteers.
[Hans in German]
I weighed 100 pounds and was 5' 3".
So, I had to roll up
the trousers of my uniform.
[in German] Men of the Berlin Volkssturm,
never drop the flag
before the enemies of the Reich
and surrender like cowards.
[narrator] Hans's father is a loyal Nazi.
Now it's time
for little Hans to prove himself.
[Hans] My year, those born in 1929,
were presented
to the Führer on his birthday.
The Führer was to lead us to victory.
First, we set up roadblocks
against the Red Army.
Berlin had to be defended.
We just have to hold on!
[narrator] March 1945.
The Allies are pouring
across the German border.
[newscaster] Allied armies are continuing
their progress to the Rhine River
with good results
reported from all sectors.
[Winston Churchill]
Once the River Rhine is pierced,
decisive victory in Europe will be nearer.
[narrator] To preserve American lives,
Roosevelt agrees that the final task
of taking Berlin will fall to the Soviets.
[Roosevelt] We have made a good start
on the road to a world of peace.
In New Mexico, scientists are developing
a devastating secret weapon:
the atomic bomb.
While in the Pacific,
the Americans are retaking the Philippines
and the island of Iwo Jima.
[Douglas MacArthur] We shall not rest
until our enemy is completely overthrown.
Japan itself is our final goal.
One last obstacle now stands
between U.S. forces and mainland Japan.
[newscaster] The Pacific War's
greatest invasion armada
has put American army troops
and marines ashore on Okinawa Island.
[narrator] If the Americans take Okinawa,
an invasion of Japan will be within reach.
For the Japanese,
it's an unthinkable prospect.
[commander shouting]
[Kanji in Japanese] Our country had
a line of Emperors 2,600 years old.
We had never been invaded
by another country.
And we have the Samurai code of honor.
[narrator] Japan's commanders
resort to a desperate tactic
to stop the U.S. fleet.
The air force calls for volunteers.
I was in the eighth special attack unit.
Hundreds of people came forward.
We believed we were doing
something righteous,
that it was a holy war.
I would feel brave
and think we were heroes.
Next day, I would feel anxious and scared.
We didn't really believe
all that "Long live the Emperor" stuff,
but as a young person,
you get caught up in it
and feel that you have to follow suit.
[Ari] One night, in the early hours,
one of the guys said,
"It's Friday the 13th."
So, we kind of had a feeling
that something would happen.
And it did.
I was having breakfast.
One of the lookouts
yelled out, "Planes overhead!"
[engines buzzing]
When I saw another ship hit by a kamikaze,
I thought they were crazy.
There was carnage.
I saw this plane coming in
and I remember saying,
"This is it, I'm going to die."
[narrator] For two days, wave after wave
of kamikaze suicide bombers
attack the American ships.
[Kanji] When my turn was approaching
I was so scared of dying.
But you had to obey orders.
With the enemy fleet ahead,
there was no way back.
It's a funny thing,
when I knew I was going to die,
I remembered things from childhood.
For example, my mother's face.
Then I was hit and blacked out.
[narrator] Miraculously,
after crash landing in the ocean,
Kanji is thrown clear of the wreckage
and picked up by a U.S. rescue boat.
But the battle
for Okinawa is just beginning.
It's April, and in Europe, every day
brings news of another German defeat.
The Americans captured Cologne today.
It's a city of rubble and devastation.
And right now,
the German garrison is in full flight
along the west bank of the Rhine.
[newscaster 2] United States forces
have entered the Nazi city of Nuremberg,
while Russian airborne troops have landed
within 23 miles east of Berlin.
[newscaster 3] East and West have met
near the German town of Torgau.
Nazi Germany
has been split clean in half.
[narrator] For thousands of prisoners
of the Nazi regime,
a moment of truth is approaching.
[Gerda] I was 15 when the war broke out.
My friends were about the same age.
We were all young girls.
Practically children.
[narrator] Jewish teenager Gerda Weissmann
has been held in Nazi labor camps
for almost three years.
[Gerda] I heard planes overhead.
I remember they told us
the Russian front had moved closer
and the Germans, they were running away
from the advancing Russian army.
We were told we were going
on a march the next morning.
The SS men lifted their whips
and they said, "Forward march."
We all knew that this
is going to be the end of the road.
It was bitter cold.
We slept outside.
We left a bloody trail in the snow.
It was pretty brutal.
My friend said she wanted some water.
And I held her and we both fell asleep.
I woke up, but she didn't.
[narrator] After a 350-mile forced march,
Gerda and her fellow prisoners are locked
by SS guards in an abandoned factory.
[Gerda] The Germans planted
a time bomb to blow us up.
We tried to break out of there,
and we couldn't.
I remember sitting there and really
knowing that this was definitely the end.
[announcer] This is The World Today.
[newscaster] The German resistance
west of the Rhine is still crumbling
and American columns
are racing deep into Germany.
[narrator] April 1945.
The Americans
are mopping up German resistance
in the west of the country.
[machine gun firing]
[newscaster] The German army
has really been cut to pieces,
and they now find themselves
in a parlous state.
[narrator] And the Soviet Red Army
has arrived at the gates of the capital.
[newscaster] Berlin is tonight
completely surrounded by Russian armies.
- [wind whistling]
- [distant explosions]
[indistinct discussion]
[Roman in Russian] I looked at the map.
Berlin was 12 kilometers away.
I said, "Guys, for all your suffering
for all your sorrows
[in Russian] Fire!
[Roman] We gave them hell!
The infantry jumped onto the tanks.
On to Berlin!
[narrator] Manning the barricades
is 15-year-old Hans Müncheberg.
I found myself in front of the Russians.
I fired in the general direction
of the enemy.
It was a question of survival.
[Leonid] We were so angry.
Our tanks crushed the dead Germans.
And the wounded.
[Hans] Nine of my classmates were killed.
We decided
we were not going to surrender.
We would try to break out.
After two weeks of brutal street fighting,
Leonid Rozenberg
is among the first Red Army soldiers
to reach the Reichstag,
the symbolic heart
of the German government,
to finally avenge his murdered family.
[Leonid] I was ready
to get to the Reichstag
and to put an end to it all.
I climbed to the Reichstag dome
and reached the victory banner.
For the entire war,
I'd dreamed of reaching the enemy's lair.
I reached the lair!
[newscaster in Russian]
The German army has been beaten.
Germany is defeated!
[Hans] We came to a village.
This lady told us,
"Germany has surrendered."
I said, "That's impossible.
Germany can't surrender."
My captain put his arm on my shoulder.
"You know, boy, sometimes
it's harder to hear the truth than a lie."
I knew it was over.
[newscaster] Germany has
surrendered unconditionally on all fronts
and to all the allies: the United States,
Great Britain, Soviet Russia and France.
The Germans signed the papers
at 19 minutes before
three o'clock this morning, French time,
in a little red schoolhouse
at Reims, France.
[crowd cheering]
[announcer in German]
Men and women of Germany,
our Führer, Adolf Hitler, has fallen.
[newscaster] Here is a news flash.
The German radio has
just announced that Hitler is dead.
I'll repeat that.
Hitler is dead.
[narrator] Hitler has ended
his own life with a bullet to the head.
He leaves behind a nation
in ruins and a people shattered.
After fleeing their hometown,
Carola Stern and her mother
have been hiding from the Russians.
We walked until we came to a farm.
Soldiers came past and told us,
"The Führer fell
in the battle for Berlin."
And my mother said,
"The Führer didn't know it all."
I replied, "Forget the Führer."
"He promised us the world,
and now we're here in the dirt."
[Churchill] We may allow ourselves
a brief period of rejoicing.
Today is Victory in Europe Day.
[narrator] As the celebrations begin,
in Germany,
U.S. intelligence officer Kurt Klein
receives a troubling report.
[Kurt] We had heard
of a group of Jewish women
who had been dumped by their SS guards
in a vacant factory building.
And because I was German speaking,
I was sent in
together with a jeep of medics.
[Gerda] A couple of days earlier,
the Germans locked us into the factory
and they attached a time bomb.
[thunder rumbling]
But it started to rain.
So, the bombing timer did not connect.
And the following morning,
the doors were opened
and people called
and said the war was over.
A very clear view of liberation
came that morning
when I saw a car coming down the hill,
the white star on its hood
and not the swastika.
[Kurt] And I remember
that next to the entrance of the building,
I saw a girl standing.
And I decided to walk up to her.
And I asked her in German and in English
whether she spoke either language,
and she answered me in German.
[Gerda] And I said to him,
"We are Jewish, you know?"
For a very long time he didn't answer me.
And then his own voice
betrayed his emotion.
He said, "So am I."
I remember I said, "Oh!"
Of disbelief.
He looked like God to me.
And the impact of that,
to be liberated not only by an American,
but by a fellow Jew
it just, it was so totally
I mean, I think this is when that
that feeling of such an incredible joy
which fills your whole being,
it must have burst out.
I remember I couldn't get ahold of myself.
And then he asked a strange question.
He said, "May I see the other ladies?"
A form of address
we hadn't heard for six years.
I told him that most of the girls
were inside but too ill to walk.
And he said to me,
"Won't you come with me?"
He held the door open for me
and let me proceed him.
[Kurt] It's nearly impossible to describe
the scene that I found inside
with all these women
scattered on the floor.
That was simply too overwhelming.
She pointed at them and then
made sort of a sweeping gesture
over this scene of devastation
and said the following words:
"Noble be man,
merciful and good."
And I could hardly believe
that she was able to summon a poem
by the German poet Goethe,
called "The Divine," at such a moment.
It was a totally
shattering experience for me.
[Gerda] Well, pretty soon trucks came,
Red Cross trucks.
They took us into hospital.
I was the only one
from my family who survived.
[Kurt] I've never forgotten the impression
that this girl had made on me,
and I made it my business to come back
to the hospital as often as I could.
The more I talked to her,
the more I realized
she had something very special about her.
So, from that point on,
a relationship developed.
[Gerda] Kurt came as often as he could,
and he said, "Well,
I would like you to come to America."
And I said, "Well, what would I do there?"
And he said,
"For starters, you could marry me."
And that was
the happiest moment of my life.
[narrator] For Gerda Weissmann,
there is salvation.
For millions of others,
there is no way out.
The Americans have arrived
in the German town of Dachau.
We rode down a road towards Dachau.
But Dachau had no meaning for me.
There were side railroad tracks.
And we came to this enclosed place
with gates and so on.
There was a huge amount of people.
There were about 30 boxcars
on the railroad track,
and when I looked into the cars,
they were full of dead people.
I was so shocked by what I saw
that it just knocked me over.
When you're in the middle
of an experience of that kind,
it's sort of like a nightmare.
It was beyond the realm
of one's imagination.
It will take lifetimes to comprehend
the enormity of the crimes
committed here
and in camps all across occupied Europe,
where millions have been murdered
in the Nazi genocide.
In the Far East, the slaughter continues.
At Okinawa, Japan's kamikaze pilots
have failed to stop the American advance.
By the end of June,
after a desperate last battle,
Okinawa falls.
The final goal is within sight: Tokyo.
In the Pacific, American B-29s
hit Japanese installations
on Honshu and Kyushu islands.
[newscaster 2] The Tokyo area is
once again being pounded from the air.
Our vast task force has resumed
its attacks on the enemy capital.
[newscaster 3]
There is an acute realization
that perhaps the hardest phase
of the war is still to come.
Now, we must crush Japan.
[missiles whistling]
[narrator] To bring an end to the war,
the Allies now face the prospect
of a bloody invasion of Japan
and tens of thousands more casualties.
But they've been developing
a devastating secret weapon:
the atom bomb.
[Harry Truman] There can be
no peace in the world
until the military power
of Japan is destroyed.
Only surrender
can prevent the kind of ruin
which they have seen come to Germany
as the result of continued,
useless resistance.
[narrator] While American commanders
debate the morality of this drastic step,
some of Japan's leaders
are secretly contemplating surrender.
But Japan will never
have the chance to make a peace offer.
[pilot] Pilot to left waist gunner.
We're over the I.P.
Pilot to bombardier: your ship.
[bombardier] Bomb bay doors open.
[Truman] It is an atomic bomb.
The force from which
the sun draws its power
has been loosed against those
who brought war to the Far East.
[Sakue in Japanese] There was a flash.
The blast came rushing towards us.
We were crying out to our mother.
"Mom, help us, please help us!"
I touched her with my hands.
She crumbled into pieces,
and ash soared into the air.
The city of Hiroshima has been destroyed,
and practically all living things were
literally seared to death by the blast.
Sixty percent of the built-up area
of the city had vanished,
almost without trace.
[narrator] A hundred thousand Japanese
are killed instantly
in two atomic blasts
over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A hundred and 50 thousand more
will die from radiation sickness
over the coming years.
[George VI] Japan has surrendered.
[crowd cheering]
War has ended throughout the world.
I ask you at this solemn hour
to remember all
who have laid down their lives
and all who have endured
the loss of those they love.
[Orson Welles] Congratulations for
being alive and listening on this night.
Millions didn't make it.
New homecoming.
The men who tilted guns of battleships
and stoked them in epic battle
will ride the level ferries
of bay and river.
The pilot with many missions
will do errands for some civilian company.
And tank men will drive
a powered lawnmower
while their fathers watch.
[narrator] After six years of all-out war,
the world counts the cost.
More than 60 million are dead.
Those who have lived through this conflict
will carry the scars forever.
It will fall to those
who come after to learn its lessons.
[static over radio]
[newscaster] A couple of Nazi
war criminals, Goering and Von Rundstedt,
both of them big fish, they've been caught
and they've been brought to Britain now.
They will be tried in London
for their war crimes.
[newscaster] The American request for
opening up Palestine to Jewish refugees
would be granted through agreement
with the British government.
But the initial indications were
that neither Arabs nor Jews
were going to be satisfied with it.
[commentator] We've got to prepare
a climate for peace,
a climate of understanding and goodwill.
[newscaster] A Human Rights Commission
is expected to draft a Bill of Rights
for all mankind
that would serve as the conscience
of the United Nations.
[Churchill] Sail on, O ship of state.
Sail on, O union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
with all the hopes for future years,
is hanging breathless on thy fate!
[dramatic music rising]
Previous Episode