Sunday, January 22, 2006
More of The World At War. The producers have on several occasions played a jaunty song of the times, usually a woman singing, under a pastiche of still photos and video, often of quite terrible or devastating scenes. The effect is nostalgic and heartbreaking.
After the failure of the Germans at Stalingrad--twice--there was a sick sense of fatalism that passed through the population about how their government had overreached and a devastating defeat was now inevitable, a defeat where just a few short months before a glorious victory had been ensured. The footage shows a beaten population in the still-functioning cinemas in 1943 and 1944, trying to get some little bit of escapism before the axe finally fell. The camera pans over dirty, exhausted faces struggling to lose themselves in the fantasy on the screen--dirty children and elderly people in threadbare clothes and maimed soldiers trying to mend. Such a comedown from the euphoria that swept the country after the fall of France in 1940, from the sense of exultation that the "wrongs" (as they were seen) of Versailles were revenged, from the days when Hitler had proven to a downtrodden people that they really were something above other nations.
Such a story. And the more fascinating and moving because (the convictions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad notwithstanding) it actually happened. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
P.S. In searching for a good picture of Stalingrad for this little post I came across this site, which provided these photos and has many others, if you're interested in this sort of thing.