History should never be completely set. It should always remain organic and flowing, changing and modifying as new facts and perspectives are added to the already known narrative. When it comes to World War II, we are constantly discovering new things: the extent of the enemies resolve, the small pockets of heretofore unsung heroism, the vastness of the damage to both country and citizenry, and perhaps most importantly, the impact on those who became the conquered and defeated. Indeed, we need to be reminded of the way in which the 'enemy' viewed their cause, how they came to power, and how they mistook honor and duty for a desire to rule the world. In the case of Nazi Germany, almost everything from the outside looking in is known. What we've rarely heard, however, is the story of how everyday Germans initially responded to Hitler, how the political agitator became a dictatorial force to be reckoned with, and what happened when the last vestiges of the Third Reich were swept away by the Allied Forces. Thanks to the History Channel, and this unique three hour overview, those forgotten facets of Germany's rise to power are presented in way that fills in many of those missing mandates.
Part Two discusses the feeling of invincibility among the citizenry and soldiery, the quick victories across Europe, the sudden shock of air raids on German soil, and the slow realization that the War may not be winnable. Horror stories involving the Red Army (a literal rape and murder machine) and the Nazi's own horrendous 'Final Solution' round out a kind of inverse confessional. Many of the statements made here attempt a kind of unacknowledged guilt. The German people knew their Jewish neighbors were being relocated - without their possessions - and took advantage of their absence. When the Concentration Camps, sometimes located within a densely populated suburb, were discovered, the populace played possum. One US soldier makes is very clear, however, that as far as he (and the rest of the world) are concerned, ALL Germans were and remain guilty for the heinous crimes of their country.
By using the words of writers, soldiers, officials, involved families, and casual observers, and melding them with home movies, newsreel footage, propaganda films, war documentation, and the standard spoils of cinematic war, The Third Reich becomes a decidedly powerful experience. Sure, we get sick and tired of hearing the narrator say "If you were a German living in...". It's like a laborious catchphrase to keep the viewer clued in that this is the story from the enemy's point of view. Similarly, the naiveté and outright obliviousness of the German people ("Life during wartime isn't so bad after all...") can be grating. In their name, a man was singlehandedly wiping out an entire ethnicity and more or less running roughshod over the rest of the world, and all they cared about was how the conflict was affecting their daily existence. It makes the fear and horror - and denial - of the latter statements all the more sickening. Here were a people who allowed a madman to commit genocide and mass murder in their name, and aside from a few dissenting perspectives (including one man who we see tried for his sedition), they could really care less.
Another interesting aspect of this overview is how quickly Hitler disappears from the discussion. During part one, he is all over the narrative. Everything about him is discussed - his jerky speaking style, his awful hairdo, his lack of typical German mannerism, his low class appearance. But once he takes power, once installed as the figurehead and then fiery Fuhrer, it's as if the Reich absorbs him, insulating him, and his people, from the praise/criticism we heard before. Suddenly, there are few discussions about the man himself. Mostly, we hear about the failure of the government as a whole. There are people who long for information, who want the truth untainted by the Nazi's desire to spin everything to the positive. Even the horrific defeat at the hands of the Russians is painted in a way to make the slaughter of German citizens seem noble. All throughout this excellent compendium, we see how lies and betrayal meshed with belief and faith in the Fatherland to sell a citizenry a bill of goods for which many are still paying. It's amazing to learn that, up until the '80s, Germany was still rebuilding after its destruction by the Allies. In some ways, The Third Reich shows that much of the damage will never, and can never, be repaired.