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PROJECTS | 2005 | 1945 - BATTLEFIELD GERMANY

1945 - BATTLEFIELD GERMANY

Part 1 | The Russians Are Coming

Part 2 | Pushing Towards the Elbe

Part 3 | The End

Author & Director:
Christian Klemke | Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editors:
Rolf Bergmann | Jens Stubenrauch

Duration:
3 x 45'

Production:
RBB // ARD

End of December 1944, the Wehrmacht's last offensive on the western front, in the Ardennes, has failed. January 12th 1945, the Russian started a major offensive from their bridgeheads close to the Weichsel. The three-part series "1945 - Battlefield Germany" documents the last eighteen weeks of the War. It shows the end of the War especially from the very personal, the individual point of view of the then participants.

Part 1: "The Russians are coming!" That cry causes panic and scare amongst the German civilian population. A dark fear of vengeance mingles with already stoked fears by the Nazi propaganda. From East-Prussia to Pomerania, from Silesia to Berlin. "The Russians are coming!" That cry also is a spark of hope to a 13years old prisoner in Auschwitz. The fear of the Russians shall give more motivation to the German soldiers, every evacuation of civilians is prevented by the Nazi leaders till the very end. And the war in the east of Germany is going to be a lasting one. Although the first Soviet troops reach the Oder after only two weeks, the fighting and killing still goes on in February and March. In East-Prussia the young Margarete Wentkowski is fleeing from the Red Army for weeks. In Breslau the young German soldier Rudolf Wolter is defending a "Propaganda Fortress" for months. Harry Czepuck is on guard at the Oder frontline. The young Red Army artillery officer Alexander Mertinenko from Kiev, he is part of the troops rushing forward. A long lasting, bloody advance across the east of the German Reich.

Part 2: For the GI's, the road from the Normandy to the Rhine is a long and deadly one. Early March 1945, Tony Vaccaro from New York, finally reaches the river. A milestone on his way to Berlin. That is where he wants to go, before the Russians reach the city. Hitler is outraged by the fact that one the bridges across the Rhine, the bridge of Remagen, the passage into the heart of Germany, was not destroyed. The GI's march forward and encounter German troops, soldiers that no longer want to fight, and fanatic SS troopers. Combatant Georg Schulz believes strongly in the "final victory" and thwarts the Americans. He is lucky and survives. Orna Birnbach, a young girl from Poland, she struggles with death in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. The crossing of the Rhine in March 1945, the advance to Bavaria, to Berlin, to the Elbe - the roads are paved with various human fates on "Battlefield Germany".

Part 3: On April 15th 1945, the Jewish girl Orna Birnbach is liberated from Bergen-Belsen. The following day, the bloody battle on the Seelower Heights next to Berlin begin. In less than one month, the war will be over. Alexander Mertinenko, the young Artillerie-Officer, he and his comrades are storming towards the capital of the German Reich, chasing the German soldiers. One of them is Harry Czepuck, who gets into battle of Halbe, the last big bloodbath in the east of Germany. From the west, after crossing the Elbe, GI Tony Vaccaro is moving towards the Russian troops. In the north, the 17years old Eberhard Lehmann defies the British Army, even as a prisoner of war. Those were the orders he received by his German superiors. In the south, the German soldier Georg Schulz encounters liberated prisoners of a concentration camp and he no longer understands the world.

Everyone of the participants experienced the end of the Third Reich in May 1945 in their own way. Those horrible, frightening, hopeful, desperate, longed for moments, that burned themselves into the memories and that till today are kept alive.