A look at how Hitler calculated that to fight on long enough to fulfil his aim of eradicating Europe's Jews he needed to capture the Caucasus, and to do that he had to take Stalingrad. There is also a look at how the US rebuilt its navy and took itself from the 18th-ranked army in the world to be second only to the Soviet Union, a tale of ingenuity and enterprise that turned the vast resources of America into the numbers that could win a war.
In April 1944, two Jewish prisoners miraculously escaped from Auschwitz. When they recounted what they had left behind, their harrowing testimony revealed the true horror of the Holocaust to the outside world for the first time. They described in forensic detail the gas chambers and the full extent of the extermination programme. The news they brought presented the Allies with one of the greatest moral questions of the 20th century: Should we bomb Auschwitz? While the Allies deliberated in London and Washington, the killing machine ground on in southern Poland. One month after the men’s escape, almost 800,000 Hungarian Jews had been rounded up awaiting transport to Auschwitz. By early July 1944, the majority had been transported. Most of them were murdered on arrival. As the killing at Auschwitz reached its frenzied climax, the outcome of the Second World War hung in the balance. Millions of troops were fighting on both fronts and battling for supremacy in the air. Should the Allies use their resources to push on and win the war or to stop the industrial slaughter at Auschwitz? The request to bomb the camp, with 30,000 captive prisoners, was remarkable and came from a place of utter desperation. But it was a direct response to the destruction of an entire people. There were operational challenges - was it possible to reach the camp to bomb it? How many heavy bombers would it take? What would the Nazi propaganda machine say about such an attack? - as well as complex moral ones. How many prisoners would likely die in such a raid? Can you kill friendly civilians in order to save the lives of those being transported towards the death camp? These were the hard questions faced by Churchill, Allied Air Command and the Jewish Agency.
2019 • History
The story of the decline of the French empire and the indelible mark colonialism left on countries that were colonised. In the mid-to-late 19th century, the French and other European powers colonised much of Africa and Southeast Asia. During the decades of imperialism, these industrialising powers viewed the African and Asian continents as reservoirs of raw materials, labour and territory for future settlement. In most cases, however, significant development and European settlement in these colonies was sporadic. After the second world war, the French and European colonial empires started falling apart. By 1966, most French-controlled territories and colonies gained independence, and new nation states were established. This three-part series charts the history of that period of decolonisation, and explores the debates about assimilation, race, identity and citizenship that have troubled France from then until now. Featuring interviews with war veterans and descendants of those who experienced the "blood and tears" of colonialism and decolonisation directly – in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific – it also looks at the indelible mark this has left on the hearts and souls of close to half a billion people across five continents and some 45 countries.
2020 • History
Bettany Hughes' series exploring the lives and teachings of influential ancient philosophers draws to a close with a profile of Confucius, who is credited as the first Chinese thinker to take a systematic philosophical approach to issues of social, political and ethical importance. Born during the chaotic Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history, Confucius believed that harmony could be promoted and achieved through the examples of sage rulers. He was also a innovative teacher, and tried to instill his principles of moral excellence in China's elite, but died without seeing his vision for his nation come to pass. However, his philosophies would eventually form the bedrock of Chinese culture, with many of his principles of tradition surviving to this day.
Hitler's power has become unrestricted and unlimited. He is Chancellor and President. He makes the law. Cabinet and parliament just have alibi functions. Hitler is admired by the people. Germany feels strong again, and people accept the merciless dictatorship and the persecution of others as necessary evil. The 'Nuremberg Race Laws' pass unanimously by the Reichstag parliament. A referendum in then-French Saarland shows 91 percent of the population voting to return to the German Reich. Now the world looks anxiously whether Hitler will make further territorial claims. His gaze turns to Austria, his homeland.