By Ollie Richardson
The 22nd of June, 1941, marks the start of Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa – an attempt to conquer the lands of the USSR. Following the footsteps of Napoleon and Batu Khan, Hitler expected a swift and decisive victory over Stalin and the Red Army, seeing as the prize the vast pool of raw materials and rich lands. What happened after this key date is known to all…or is it? The curriculum of both primary and secondary education in western Europe seemingly either skims over the details of the Soviet victory over fascism, or buries it completely.
The focal points of teaching were and still are “the” Holocaust, the bombing of Britain, and the invasion of France. Children passing through the “educational” conveyor belt come out the other side installed with a pre-packaged database of “facts”, but evidently lack critical thinking skills. In addition, World War I is conveniently forgotten about, and instead it is replaced with “great” victories such as the Battle of Agincourt, D-Day landings, and the nuclear bombings of Japan.
However, the contradictions of modern industrialised societies, which have their roots in the aforementioned buried topics, are somehow a puzzle for the generation raised on “selective-memory history”. Despite this, it is never too late to process and comprehend not only the fact that a western-centric narrative of World War I & II exists, but also that the foundations of the Liberal ideology are built on it, and continue to be.
Thus, the video below, produced by the US Department of Defense in 1943 as part of the “Why We Fight” series, offers a surprisingly objective (for a western work) assessment of the events of Operation Barbarossa. This video should be shown in every classroom from Oregon to Madrid as a prelude to lessons about identity, the concept of a Nation, and why betraying history is in fact a betrayal of the self. The description of the video is as follows:
“This motion picture film examines the war in Russia, 1941-1943.
Reel 1 dramatizes Russia’s military history. Alexander Nevsky defeats the German knights in 1242. The Swedes are defeated in 1704 in a cavalry battle at Poltava. French troops retreat from Moscow in 1812. Kaiser Wilhelm inspects troops on the Eastern front in 1917.
Reel 2 shows mine operations, agricultural scenes, oil fields, and manufacturing scenes. People of many ethnic groups present native dances. Civilian and military units parade in Moscow. Maksim Litvinoff asks the League of Nations to aid Ethiopia in 1935.
Reel 3 maps Axis expansion into eastern Europe. Hungarian, Rumanian, and Bulgarian troops parade prior to Nazi occupation. Footage shows puppet leaders Admiral Miklos von Nagybanya Horthy, General Ion Antonescu, King Michael of Romania and King Boris of Bulgaria. Adolf Hitler and Generals Wilheim Keitel and Alfred Jodl meet. Nazis march through Hungarian cities. Yugoslavian cities are bombed and Greece is occupied. Tanks roll from Russian assembly lines and troops are inducted. German panzer divisions invade Russia in June 1941.
Reel 4 maps the German advance in 1941 and analyzes Russian strategy. Hitler makes a victory speech in October. Footage shows intense street fighting in Sevastopol. Russians of all ages are mobilized.
In Reel 5, houses, factories, and a large dam in the Ukraine are burned or dynamited before the advancing Nazis. Guerilla units draw arms and then dynamite Nazi installations. Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, and other leaders pose. Red troops parade in Moscow in Dec. 1941.
In Reel 6, citizens pray in churches on Christmas Day. Russian tanks, cavalry units, and ski troops advance beneath air support. Villages are liberated and refugees return.
In Reel 7, dead and tortured Russian civilians are found. Footage shows prewar Leningrad. Barricades are erected. The city is intensively bombed.
In Reel 8, the city is besieged. Women remove rubble from streets. Defenses are manned. Food is rationed. Shell manufacture continues. Supplies are brought in by truck, tractor, and railroad across frozen Lake Ladoga. Winter snows blanket the city. Nazi planes bomb trucks on the lake. The spring thaw arrives. Children play in the sunshine. German prisoners enter the city.
Reel 9 maps the battle for the Caucasus and the Crimea. Stalingrad is bombarded from the air by artillery and house-to-house fighting is shown.
Reel 10 maps the Russian encirclement of Nazis at Stalingrad. Marshal Nikolai Voronoff confers with his aides. The encircling Red armies meet in Dec. 1942. Flamethrowers, rockets, and artillery are used to force the surrender of remnants of 22 Nazi divisions.
The final scene maps Russian gains and cites statistics on Nazi losses thus far in the campaign.”
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