|The world's first look at Hitler's armies at war is Germany's own documentary of her 1939 invasion of Poland. Films of this conflict, soon eclipsed by greater and longer campaigns, are rarely seen. IHF's program fills an important cinematic gap in Nazi military history. |
The first German wartime newsreel illustrates the regime's skillful propaganda. Footage depicting a Polish artillery barrage against the German frontier town of Beuthen, and of refugee Germans who had fled into the Reich to escape Polish persecution, illustrates Hitler's claimed justification for invasion. British leaders are cast as instigators.
Scenes of air-raid preparations in Berlin, the call-up of reservists, and an armaments factory show German preparations. In the Polish-controlled port of Danzig, Waffen SS troops fire the war's first shots as they assault the city's post office, where Polish guerrillas were barricaded.
The lightning thrust of the German army shows infantry, cavalry, mountain and motorcycle troops, and armor acting with battlefield discipline and coordination remarkable for a combat- inexperienced force. Scenes of a Luftwaffe sortie and the point-blank bombardment against the Polish fort at Westerplatte by the German warship Schleswig-Holstein are included.
Hitler's dramatic appearances near the front were liberally included in the German's campaign films of Poland. Here is Adolf Hitler at war: grim and calculating at a military conference, light- hearted among soldiers at an army field kitchen, proud and confident while reviewing his advancing infantry, apprehensive and excited when watching the climatic German bombardment of Warsaw.
Among scenes of the ferocious land battles of Radom and Kutno, infantry penetrations into burning towns, and weary German soldiers at rest is an event of exceptional interest: the first meeting of German troops with their Soviet allies on the battlefield. Here is the invasion of Poland, where the legend of the Blitzkrieg was born, with original German sound, exactly as heard and seen by the German people: from the first strides across the frontier, when German infantrymen enthusiastically break down a Polish border gate, to the resounding crash of the goosestep as the victorious German soldiers parade past their Fuehrer through conquered Warsaw.
Germany, 1939, B&W, 60 minutes, sound with English Subtitles.