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Stalingrad 2005


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WWII documentary about the bitter battle for Russia's jewel. A name forever associated with the horrors of war at their most unimaginable and traumatic the battle for Stalingrad is here dissected and examined. Survivors from both sides describe their harrowing experiences and provide some of the last eyewitness accounts that will ever be recorded. Reports from people close to the centre of power alternate with these moving testimonies to make a compelling documentary. Particularly chilling are excerpts from 8 mm films actually shot by soldiers during the siege. Russian archives opened their doors to the filmmakers, granting them exclusive access to documents and rare footage of Stalingrad. Archival film was digitally restored and scanned in HD, with some coloration of b/w material. Finally, 3-D animation helped recreate the city of Stalingrad and document its destruction in the course of the trilogy.

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Product Details

  • Feature exempt
Runtime 3 hours 0 minutes
Genres Documentary
Rental release 20 August 2007
Main languages English

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By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Sept. 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Few people in the west are aware that during the last world war at no time after June 1941 did the Western allies face more than 30% of Hitler's war machine. The outcome of the war was largely decided in the East, on the Russian front between Nazi Germany its allies and Russia. It was also a titanic clash of ideologies and two iron fisted dictators wielding immense power, both inflexible and iron hard, neither willing to give an inch of ground. At the city that was known as Stalingrad on the Volga river where Europe meets Asia, they met like two irresistibly destructive juggernauts in a cataclysmic collision that would change the course of history. Stalin wanted to hold the city named after him at all costs, whilst Hitler decreed that it was taken at all costs. Something and someone had to give. In this once beautiful city, scenes of almost apocalyptic carnage were played out on a vast canvas, in an area reduced to crumbling ruins where men fought the most primitive kind of warfare. The German 6th army and its battle hardened troops had known nothing but momentum and victory, but at Stalingrad the Russian bear was unleashed upon them and it was a frightful thing to behold. The Blitzkrieg was ended and the German soldier had to learn the harsh realities of street fighting. Even the spade was still a useful weapon in this inferno.

This wonderful documentary covers this epic battle in three parts, all of about 55 minutes. In part one, we have the initial approach and assault on the city. The German soldiers are shown in a happy and triumphant mood. Some of the colour film is remarkably good. In part two we follow the disaster that befell the 6th army when they were encircled by the Russian army. In part three the final destruction of this army is described in all its gruesome detail.
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This is a documentary that doesn't just dwell on the military aspects but delves underneath to the human impact. It was good to hear the first hand accounts of this awful battle. Not only from survivors of both sides, but also the relatives of soldiers who were caught up in the debacle. One mother's account is of her son being called up and conscripted into the 6th Army and her reluctance to let him go. As it turns out of course her reservations are well founded and she never sees him again!

The programme has the capacity to generate anger at how this could happen in the 20th century especially after the lessons from the slaughter of the first world war. The concept of 300,000 trapped in the Stalingrad pocket and refused permission to surrender is hard to contemplate. The programme slowly goes step by step on how the situation unfolded, to its conclusion and right up to the return of a paltry 6000 POWs that finally made it back to Germany; but not until 1955.

It explains how the egos of the two dictatorial lunatics were obsessed with a city merely because of its name. For, after the pounding it took, it had no more strategic significance. It was not just a disaster for Germany but the number of Russian, both military and civilian, losses were horrific. The grinding cold and appalling conditions faced by the Wermacht is captured in no small detail. There are some excellent insights into the battle. Such as the view of Von Paulus as to why he wouldn't surrender. And how his HQ was comparitively well fed whilst troops were starving to death and being driven to madness by the cold. In fact, it is a miracle that any survived in view of the atrocities commited by certain elements of the German Armed forces. This was war at its most brutal.

The documentary is put together well and holds your attention. Some of the maps are a little basic but serve their purpose. Compulsive viewing.
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I'd like to state, because some people might find it relevant, that this is the English version of an originally German television documentary by Guido Knopp, the "house historian" of the 2nd state TV channel in Germany (ZDF). This fact is not mentioned in the product description nor anywhere on the DVD cover itself.

I wouldn't have bought the DVD if I had known.

Luckily though, the documentary, or at least this English version, isn't bad.

This being a German production, the focus is clearly on the experiences of the German soldiers, with some Red Army soldiers and Stalingrad civilians receiving attention too. The Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, etc. troops only get a brief mention, and the Russian 'Hiwis' (who fought on the side of the Germans inside the 'Kessel') none at all.

Some minor issues I noticed were these.

Towards the beginning it is reported that, even though most members of the Wehrmacht at the time were probably unaware of any atrocities that were being committed by Germans in the east, at least some of them must have known about them. That is because in August 1941 (!) a 6th Army division was resting near where SS-Einsatzgruppe 4a was operating. Now, that may well have been the case, but what has it got to do with the battle of Stalingrad?

Also, in a scene some time later, one can see a soldier with a Waffen-SS helmet. As far as I'm aware, there were no Waffen-SS units involved in the Stalingrad operation, so I wonder where that bit of footage comes from.

Towards the end of the documentary it is declared that Stalingrad was the decisive moment in World War II. This seems to imply that because they lost the battle for Stalingrad, the Germans in consequence also lost the war.
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