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WWII Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West Premiering May 6 on PBS

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In an earlier post, I mentioned that I’d been contacted by a publicist at PBS to preview the upcoming documentary that begins airing this week (May 6th), WWII Behind Closed Doors. I’ve had a chance to watch the full documentary and found it fascinating.

When I think of PBS, I think of credibility. Add credibility to reenactments performed by an extremely talented cast, the drama of war on a global scale, and the intrigue of information hidden from the public for decades, and the result makes for excellent viewing.

The story largely centers around Joseph Stalin – his hatred of Poland, betrayal by Hitler, paranoia and its impact on his leadership cadre, dealings with Churchill and Roosevelt, and hand in decisions that doomed millions. It also depicts how a few leaders determine the fate of nations. The deception around Stalin’s atrocities against Poland, these lies perpetuated by England and the United States, is startling. Another of the documentary’s highlights is its presentation of the war from the view of the Poles.

This from the publicist…

Rare wartime documents made briefly available only after the fall of the Soviet Union help reveal the real story of confidential meetings held during the war between c. Award-winning historian and filmmaker Laurence Rees (Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, Nazis – A Warning from History) tells the hidden story of Stalin’s back room dealings – first with the Nazis and then with Roosevelt and Churchill. By juxtaposing conventional documentary elements with dramatic recreations, WWII Behind Closed Doors breaks through the myths of the Allied powers, illuminating the hidden motivations of “The Big Three” and creating a dynamic reappraisal of one of the seminal events in world history.

View an excellent video on the making of the series here.

Click on image to view

Click on image to view

For full information on each episode and a wealth of additional information, see the PBS program site here or by clicking on the image below.

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For more information on Laurence Rees, see his website here or by clicking on the image below.

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Excellent Summary of King Phillip's War

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For my fellow military history graduate students who have before or behind you the excellent course, Studies in U.S. Military History, you won’t want to miss  Episode 1 of the new American Experience series, “We Shall Remain.”  Tonight’s episode, “After the Mayflower,” includes an excellent summary of King Phillip’s War. It can be replayed online at PBS here.

Jill Lepore, author of the book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (Vintage Books, 1999) which was required reading for the course, contributes significantly to the film. I wrote a brief post about her book back in September which you can (read here). Dr. Lepore is David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.

Highly Recommend both the series and the book!

King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

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Thoreau, Whitman and Emerson Added to My Library

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One of the things I’ve been a bit surprised by along the way of my military history studies is my growing interest in all aspects of the times I’m studying. During my first course on the American Civil War, it became obvious that the artists of the time played an important role. I was very pleased that PBS aired a profile of Walt Whitman tonight on The American Experience. Good stuff.

To that end, I’ve added the following three books to my library this week. You’ll find them on my virtual bookshelves here.

Poetry and Prose (Library of America College Editions)

Whitman: Poetry and Prose (Library of America College Editions)
By Walt Whitman

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden; Or, Life in the Woods / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod (Library of America)

Henry David Thoreau : A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden; Or, Life in the Woods / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod (Library of America)

First and Second Series / Representative Men / English Traits / The Conduct of Life (Library of America)

Essays and Lectures: Nature: Addresses and Lectures / Essays: First and Second Series / Representative Men / English Traits / The Conduct of Life (Library of America)
By Ralph Waldo Emerson