Operation Barbarosa (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 5, Number 3, September 1975
- p. 20
- Additional Information
FILM REVIEW Operation Barbarosa (BBC/Time-Life Films, 1970) 50 minutes. The events leading to the outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in June 1941 is an episode heretofore largely neglected on film or relegated to simple-minded caricature. Most documentaries on both Nazi Germany (e.g. NBC's The Twisted Cross or Wolper's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) and the Soviet Union (e.g. NBC's Nightmare in Red) lean toward one-line descriptions of the Nazi-Soviet Pact as nothing more than the David Lowe cartoon incarnate - "The scum of the earth, I presume." The events of June 1941 are given equally short-shrift, consisting of equal parts of "mad-dogs turning on one another" and "foolish Stalin ignores British evidence and supplies Nazi needs until the moment of the Nazi attack." Now this BBC film appears which makes up for this by offering a sophisticated, factual, and highly integrated account of the events surrounding the phenomenal Nazi victories in the east - more so than even the excellent episode on the same subject in the "World at War" series. Using the by-now familiar compilation technique of films from observers, including the ubiquitous Albert Speer, Operation Barbarosa covers the period from early 1939 to the autumn of 1941. The film begins by sensitively tracing the tortuous relations between British, French, Germans, Poles, and Russians, showing the game the Anglo-French played with the Soviets and the logic of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. It covers the so-called "Honeymoon" period and the Soviet invasions of Finland and the Baltic States, speculating on the probable effects on the Germans of the Soviet military debacle in Finland. The contradictory national interests of Germany and Russia are weighed against the ideological evidence of Mein Kampf as causes of the Nazi invasion, and the effect of the Balkan campaign on Nazi timetables is also explored, shedding additional light on the current controversies concerning these matters. The film ends with the Germans at the height of their success, merely nodding toward the future calamity that awaited them. Both to fill a gap that has long existed in the largely overworked field of World War II documentary film, and to restore historical perspective to an aspect of that conflict which has been too long dominated by the jargon of "totalitarian devil theory," this film makes a superb addition to materials on the war. (Course: European History) Gerald Herman, Northeastern University 20 ...