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Duration 01:09

British newsreel footage: Eastern Front, 1942

Extract from a British newsreel covering events on the Eastern Front 1942. Although the film was broadcast in December 1942 the footage was probably shot in the summer or autumn of 1942. At that point the prospects for the Red Army were poor, this news film puts a positive spin on events.

What’s the background to this source?

One of Hitler’s key aims in WW2 was to invade and destroy the Soviet Union and build a German empire in Eastern Europe. He invaded the USSR in June 1941 and at first it looked like he would succeed. However, he was stopped by the Russian winter in 1941 and then by stubborn Soviet resistance in 1942-3. By the start of 1943 the tide began to turn against the Germans. By 1944 all German forces were driven out of the USSR. By 1945 the Red Army was moving into Germany and it took Berlin in May 1945.

The key event of the campaign was probably the Battle of Stalingrad. The battle ran from late 1942 to early 1943. It was the deadliest battle in history and it cost German forces dearly in terms of men and equipment. From this point Soviet forces steadily drove the Germans back.

It’s worth knowing that…

Although the film was broadcast in December 1942 the footage was probably shot in the summer or autumn of 1942. At that point the prospects for the Red Army looked very bad indeed, so this is a good example of a news film putting a positive spin on events.

After the war the old mistrust between Britain and the USA and the USSR resurfaced. As a result, the critical role of the Red Army in defeating Hitler was played down. However, films like this show us that at the time people were aware of the role the USSR was playing in the war.

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