Posted in: Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on November 5th, 2012
For those who do not know, I am half polish. My mother was born in Poland during the 1950’s after the second World War. Often through my youth I would ask my mother for stories of World War II from her father. However, this was met with much resistance as my grandfather was rather tight lipped about anything that happened in that time period. It was understandable, but I still wanted to learn. In fact, today we visit World War II and more specifically the Nazi Collaborators in our dvd review.
This documentary set includes thirteen hour long episodes spread over four discs. All of these deal with a different section of Europe including Poland, France, Belgium, and Finland. The specials also deal from right within Germany itself as it examines delicate subjects like Jews inside Germany and the Killer Police. This is six hundred and fifty minutes that covers virtually everything about leaders and people who would later be labeled as collaborators. Here are a few examples.
Chaim Rumkowski – The Polish Jewish Ghetto deals with the controversial leader of the Polish Ghetto, Lodz. Many historians have argued whether or not Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski was acting in the best interest of his people or instead was indeed a Nazi Collaborator. There are strong arguments on both sides since he was able to turn the small ghetto into a town of labor that he could use as a bargaining chip for money and food to the Nazis. As a result, Lodz was the last ghetto in Eastern Europe to be liquidated and some seven thousand residents actually lived to see the end of the war.
Pierre Laval – The French Vichy Government is our next subject. This dealt with the French politician who would later go on to lead the Vichy Regime as head of government. He also pushed many Jews to their death via the infamous Nazi death camps. But was he acting out of general evil or was he acting of fear in order to preserve the greater good and the eventual freedom of his people. Despite being executed on October 15th, 1945 for high treason, it will be debated as to what end he really wished for the French people.
Moving a little further down the specials, we come to our final example: The Dutch Collaboration – Mussert, the Shadow Fuehr. Anton Adriaan Mussert was a highly ranking socialist and named Fuehr of the Dutch people from 1942 until 1945. He basically negotiated surrender to Germany by working with the Nazis. In addition, he founded the National Socialist Movement (NSB) and had its members train with the S.S. In the beginning, the Movement actually boasted Jew membership. But later, the Nazis certainly steered that in another direction. Again, fear certainly played a part.
This series of thirteen documentaries was actually featured on the military channel which is finding itself onto more and more television sets every day. This documentary series took great care into culling through four thousand hours of footage to get what was needed to put this thing together. They really did a great job and the narration by Alisdair Simpson (very distinct and well known BBC narrator) is spot on. There is a lot of interesting footage and plenty to discuss.
At the same time, this is a very delicate subject. Most of these collaborators were executed for high treason. People in general view these men as traitors especially among their own countrymen. To go often with a dissenting view and try to show these men as either acting in the best interest of their people or just acting in fear of the Nazis is a difficult task. In some cases, it is a feeble attempt at best, but yet the information they bring to the table is always worth watching.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. A nice extra to the proceedings here is that this largely black and white footage is actually in widescreen. It looks good too and despite the variety of sources that this material was obtained by, it looks largely intact. There are a few color pieces here as well as some recent interview footage. This footage is well presented and even if a lot of it is a bit disturbing, it is also utterly fascinating.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 English Dolby Digital Stereo. Again, the narration by Alisdair is excellent and there should be little to no problem understanding his careful diction of the proceedings. Mood music is very regular here but never distracting. There really are not any surround effects to talk of as this is typical documentary fare. Subtitles do exist for the footage that necessitates it.
This is the first I had the chance to see something off of the Military channel. While I can not say that I am rushing to my local satellite provider and asking for this channel, I did enjoy watching this very delicate series of topics. It is a very difficult task to talk about treasonous people such as these and attempt to paint them in a more positive light. The video and audio are nicely done and for historians and curious parties of this time period, this is a very easy recommendation. Hopefully we see more of these features in the upcoming months.
Chaim Rumkowski – The Polish Jewish Ghetto
Pierre Laval – The French Vichy Government
The Arajs Kommandos – The Latvian Holocaust
The Belgian Collaborator – Degrelle and His SS
The Croatian Collaborator – Sakic’s Concentration Camps
Vidkun Quisling – His Puppet Norwegian Nazis
The IRA – Sean Russell and his Group’s Aid to the Nazis
The Grand Mufti – The Collaborator of Jerusalem
Jews in Germany Who Fought for Hitler and Supported Him
The Dutch Collaboration – Mussert, the Shadow Fuehr
The Greek Collaborator – Rallis and his Puppet Government
The Good Collaborators? Finland’s Nevalinna
Hitler’s Killer Police – The Schutzmannschaft Squad