"Had the party given me orders, maybe East Germany would still exist today. You can count on that." (Erich Mielke, Minister of State Security from 1957-1989) An informative and chilling account of the history of the notorious East German secret police, the Stasi. Up to 90,000 full-time employees and more than 180,000 unofficial informants work for the Ministry for State Security of the GDR, and about one in 50 adults in East Germany collaborated with East Germany's Secret Police. Relative to population, it was the largest secret service in the history of mankind. Headed by the sinister Erich Mielke, the Stasi kept the East German population under constant surveillance. The Stasi - just another intelligence agency, in just another country? "Shield and Sword of the Party" is what the Stasi calls itself. The Party dictatorship never dares to face its opponents. Instead, the Stasi has to keep all dissenting opinions under control. The goal is total total surveillance. In addition to the state security, the "Stasi" is responsible for foreign intelligence and counter-espionage, personal and property protection, border and passport controls. As the party's shield and sword, the MfS is supposed to keep all enemies of the state under control. "Die Firma: Stasi" takes a look at the extent of Stasi work and shows the omnipresence of state security - from the enormous headquarters of the Ministry in Berlin through district administrations, local offices, detention facilities, prisons, disguised isolation camps, hidden bunkers, reconnaissance planes, eavesdropping stations to the secret execution site of the GDR. Through tapping phones, reading mail, and installing informers they created an insidious culture of fear and suspicion. This definitive doc reveals the calculated cruelty and brutal repression committed by East Germany's most infamous organization.
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Egypt's Great Pyramid may be humanity's greatest achievement: a skyscraper of stone built without computers or complex machinery. This super-sized tomb has fascinated historians and archaeologists for centuries, but exactly how the ancient Egyptians finished the monument and fitted its two and a half million blocks in a quarter of a century has long remained an enigma. Today the secrets of the pyramid are finally being revealed thanks to a series of new findings. At the foot of the monument, archaeologists are uncovering the last surviving relic of the pharaoh Khufu, whose tomb it is: a huge ceremonial boat buried in flat-pack form for more than 4500 years. It's a clue that points to the important role that ships and water could have played in the pyramids' construction. This documentary follows investigations that reveal how strong the link between pyramids and boats is. It's a story of more than how Egypt built a pyramid: it's about how the pyramid helped build the modern world.
2017 • History
Around 200,000 years ago, a new species, Homo sapiens, appeared on the African landscape. While scientists have imagined eastern Africa as a real-life Garden of Eden, the latest research suggests humans evolved in many places across the continent at the same time. DNA from a 19th-century African-American slave is forcing geneticists to re-think the origins of our species. The theory is that our ancestors met, mated and hybridized with other human types in Africa — creating ever greater diversity within our species.
All seems lost for the Allies. The Italians are defeated at Caporette, and a Bolshevik Russia pulls out of the war. But the American reinforcements are decisive, and the Allies emerge victorious. The Allies are unable to negotiate an honorable peace agreement, and the Treaty of Versailles, 20 years later, will have disastrous consequences.
The little-known story of the American effort to relieve starvation in the new Soviet Russia in 1921, The Great Famine is a documentary about the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. Five million Russians died. Half a world away, Americans responded with a massive two-year relief campaign, championed by Herbert Hoover, director of the American Relief Administration known as the ARA. In July of 1921, Herbert Hoover, received a plea for international aid by Russian novelist Maxim Gorky. "Gloomy days have come for the country of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Mendeleyev," Gorky warned. He made a similar request to other Western nations, but it was Hoover who responded immediately with a promise of support. The first American relief ships arrived in Petrograd in September 1921, as the embers of the 1917 Russian revolution still smoldered. American relief workers were among the first outsiders to break through Russia's isolation and to witness and record the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution. They would be tested by a railroad system in disarray, a forbidding climate, a ruthless government suspicious of their motives, and the enormous scale of death and starvation. The initial plan called for feeding one million children by delivering bread, rice, grits, sugar, corn and milk to the most hard hit regions. Almost immediately, Hoover encountered formidable obstacles. Vladimir Lenin's new communist government was skeptical of American aid and sabotaged the relief effort by planting spies in local American Relief Administration offices. When trains stuck on the tracks prevented food from being transported, Russian officials were uncooperative, resulting in delays that contributed to an estimated 50,000 deaths. New estimates in the fall of 1921 revealed that at least 16 million Russians would be impacted by the famine. Hoover's initial plan to feed just the children would not be sufficient. That winter, cannibalism became widespread across Russia as the people continued to starve. In the U.S., Hoover managed to double the project's funding, arguing that by providing food famine relief, Americans could demonstrate the strength, kindness and efficiency of American society to a Communist culture. After a spring thaw, hundreds of American relief workers — nicknamed "Hoover's boys" — were finally able to deliver food. In August 1922, a full five months after the initial shipments of corn were sent to Russia, American Relief Administration officials were still feeding almost 11 million Soviet citizens each day in 19,000 kitchens. By the end of the famine that fall, five million Russians had starved to death, but the toll would have been significantly higher without Hoover's unprecedented humanitarian commitment. Known as "the Great Humanitarian" for his relief work during and after World War I, Hoover is said to have saved more lives than any person in history. "Lenin's government never recognized America's humanitarian motives," says producer Austin Hoyt (George H. W. Bush, Victory in the Pacific, Reagan). The Soviets always saw the relief workers as exploiters and spies." The Cheka, Lenin's secret police, kept a watchful eye on the Americans and especially on the 120,000 Russians the ARA hired to do the work. White Russians and aristocrats, the losers in Russia's brutal civil war, were hired because they were educated. The Bolsheviks feared the ARA was training them as counter-revolutionaries. The tensions the Americans experienced in the early 1920s would come to dominate U.S. Soviet relations for much of the century.
2011 • History
Andrew Marr sets off on an epic journey through 70,000 years of human history. Using dramatic reconstructions, documentary filming around the world and cutting-edge computer graphics, he reveals the decisive moments that shaped the world we live in today, telling stories we thought we knew and others we were never told. (Part 8: Age of Extremes) Andrew Marr brings the story right up to date with the twentieth century. Marr suggests that humanity found itself propelled forward by our technological brilliance but limited by the consequences of our political idiocy. The decisions we make in the next 50 years, he argues, may well decide our fate. For Marr, the most interesting part of human history lies just ahead.
This episode looks at the turning of the war against Germany, with Allied victory at El Alamein and Russian triumph at Stalingrad. Inside Hitler's Germany the SS gain more power, and in southern Europe the Allies fight their way though Italy