The DVD begins with a documentary film directed by Dovzhenko: The Liberation of Western Ukraine and Byelorussia from the Yoke of the Polish Lords. Filled with rare films of the Soviet invasion of the Polish borderland in 1939, this is an invaluable testimony to Soviet aggression against the Polish state, whose back was up against the wall fighting the Hitlerite invaders. Told from their perspective, the propagandistic speeches and monologues of the film shed much light on a way of thinking utterly alien to the thought processes of those living in the West.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. EXCELLENT DIGITAL QUALITY. TINNY SOUND. APPROXIMATELY 60 MINUTES.
This 60-minute documentary is then followed by a German newsreel from 1939 showing the opening stages of the invasion of Poland.
IN GERMAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. UNSHARP VIDEO QUALITY. APPROXIMATELY 21 MINUTES.
Newsreel Nr. 60 (June 1941): Made less than a week after the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, the film’s strident rhetoric betrays a feeling of shocked surprise and outrage over the invasion of the country. Slogans like, We will answer the enemy’s blow with one three times larger!, reveal a false bravado in a country still not recovered from the Purges to respond in an effective military way to the invaders. Allegedly spontaneous speeches and demonstrations by Soviet citizens are shown, as well as masses of Soviet men joining the ranks of the Red Army. Kolkhoz workers (women) tell their husbands and sons to go off and fight the fascist invaders. The women will work the farms from now on and bring in the harvest. Young men of “uncultured” background from Moscow are inducted into the Red Army to do their part in “repaying their debt to the Motherland”. And finally, there is a rousing, if somewhat overdramatic speech, by an Ukrainian writer declaring that the people will unite as one to defeat the fascists.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. UNSHARP BUT DECENT VIDEO QUALITY. SOME TINNINESS IN THE SOUND. APPROXIMATELY 10 MINUTES.
This newsreel is followed by a German one detailing the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
IN GERMAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. EXCELLENT DIGITAL QUALITY. APPROXIMATELY 24 MINUTES.
The situation on the USSR’s western front is at its worst point in the history of the Great Patriotic War. The enemy stands before Moscow and is everywhere triumphant. Convinced that intelligence reports provided by the Allies prior to June 1941 detailing the impending German invasion are mere provocations, Stalin, for once, allows himself to be convinced by his top spy in Japan, that the Japanese have no intention of invading Siberia. This allows Stalin, in December 1941, to move crack Siberian divisions to Moscow to meet the German threat.
Newsreel Nr. 103 (November 1941): As was the fashion with Soviet news reporting during the first years of the Second World War, defeats on the battlefield were often not reported until a good two to three weeks after the defeat and were usually portrayed as strategic withdrawals carried out in a leisurely fashion. Thus opens this newsreel from November 1941, in which the defeat at Odessa, having ended two weeks before, is shown as a “triumph in defeat”, with the Red Army being ordered to re-deploy after a resistance to the German-Rumanian forces being offered for the previous two months. Detailed and glorified are not only the tireless work of Soviet paramedics and nurses on the battlefield, but the recovery of “hundreds” of enemy planes shot down from the air. That the situation is indeed desperate by this point is reflected in the incredible admission (for the Soviets), that the Red Army suffered unimaginably high losses against the German and Rumanian attackers.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. APPROXIMATELY 7 MINUTES. UNSHARP WITH PIXELLIZATION ISSUES.
This newsreel is followed by a contemporary German newsreel.
IN GERMAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. APPROXIMATELY 31 MINUTES. EXCELLENT DIGITAL QUALITY.
Newsreel Nr. 104 (November 1941): This last Soviet newsreel on the DVD concerns itself entirely with the last minute preparations to meet the German attack on Moscow. The newsreel was shown to the public exactly one day before the city saw its worst day of the War: German tanks were to reach their closest point to the Kremlin the very next day after this film was shown. The anxious panic and the obvious belief that the Germans are going to take Moscow, in spite of the false bravado in the newsreel, are clear to see and hear. The local populace digging trenches and the untrained militia being sent out to fight the Germans remind one of the last newsreels of the Third Reich, when old men and children were sent out to meet the tanks of a now victorious Red Army converging on the Reich.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. APPROXIMATELY 8 MINUTES. UNSHARP WITH PIXELLIZATION ISSUES.
This newsreel is followed by one showing the march of the Red Army in Red Square on the same day (07 November):
By the 24th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in the USSR, the Germans were literally at the gates to Moscow, the country's capital. It was perhaps the lowest point for the Soviets in their struggle against the Germans from 1941 to 1945. With most of the Soviet government fleeing in great haste and disorder to the East, it appeared the Germans were going to take Moscow -- and perhaps finish off the USSR -- in a very short time. It was at this low point in the War that Stalin did perhaps his greatest service to the Soviet Union by refusing to flee the capital and by taking time off to show the soldiers his presence at the annual celebratory parade for the Revolution in November 1941. It was to be another month before the Germans were definitively and forever stopped before Moscow and the first successful Soviet counterattack launched, which pushed the Germans back over 200 miles. But at the time of this film, those soldiers whom you see on the screen marched straight from the parade to the front lines and into German fire.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. APPROXIMATELY 7 MINUTES. GOOD QUALITY; SOME UNSHARP AND SOFT PARTS.
This newsreel is followed by a German one from the same time period.
IN GERMAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES. APPROXIMATELY 27 MINUTES. OVERALL, VERY GOOD QUALITY.
DVD-R TOTAL TIME: APPROXIMATELY 158 MINUTES