People’s Century: Total War

1995   BBC One / WGBH

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The story of the Second World War is told from the perspective of civilian experience, rather than military strategy.  With archive film and moving testimony, men and women from Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, France, Japan, China and Korea tell how non-combatants became the targets in a war different from any before.

Citizens of Plymouth, Hamburg and Tokyo describe the effects of bombing and fire raids. A Russian woman remembers the German reprisal which burnt her village, like thousands of others.  Survivors of the 890-day siege of Leningrad recall the bread they ate made from wood cellulose and sawdust.  And Leningrad musicians tell how they helped create Shostakovich's 7th ('Leningrad') Symphony during the siege.  A Japanese soldier and a Korean slave labourer describe the brutality of the war in Asia.

Altogether 55 million lives were lost – far more than in the First World War – and the majority were civilians, not soldiers.

A BBC-WGBH co-production


Original Music Orlando Gough
Archive Research James Barker
Editor Roderick Longhurst
Assistant Producer Lisa Jones
Executive Producer Peter Pagnamenta
Written and produced by John Bridcut
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