Film: 3849

War + Military | 1940 | Sound | B/W

Synopsis:

The return of thousands of slave labourers from Germany labour camps after World War Two. Scenes of battle. German Labour Camp ('Arbeit Macht Frei') in 1945.

The film tells of the liberation of Concentration Camps and repatriation by the American Army of 21 million Europeans who had been held captive in Nazi Germany during World War II.

The film opens with shots of soldiers running down a hillside. Tanks and machine guns are shown following along a rough track. This is spring 1945. The war is over and the American Army is moving in to liberate the Europeans who have been held captive.

First to be released are the French. Some are injured and on crutches, some are carried on the tanks and everywhere there is joy and jubilation. Hundreds of inmates rush out. Emanicated men. Women peasants shaking hands with the US soldiers. “We learned about freedom from those who appreciate it most.” People wave from every window as they pass by.

The narrator asks what freedom is. It is not all celebration. A man covered in a blanket lies on the ground. He acknowledges his rescuers then collapses on the ground. A man on crutches comes out of a Red Cross hut. Prisoners in the striped uniform of the concentration camps wave greetings. Behind a barrier a painfully thin man gathers his few belongings. We see a man being buried in the camp among rows of unmarked graves. A woman shows the scars on her hands. There are scenes of potatoes on carts being grabbed by starving prisoners. There are queues at the van for food. A man in the striped uniform eats gruel from a bowl as he sits alone on a bench. As the tough G.I.s rescue the starving they show great tenderness.

Sick people are shown in bed suffering from dysentery and cholera. A Miliary hospital. The Allied Forces are can be seen tending the sick. Doctors save whom they can.

At the 'Peoples Court' guards are 'tried'. Courts are set up to try those who were extra ambitious in their cruelty and evidence is taken from witnesses. People are seen angrily attacking their oppressors.

People from the camps start to make their way home on foot to Holland and Belgium. They are seen pushing their belongings in carts and prams over waste land. They are on their way home not knowing whether their cities, towns, villages are still standing. Careful organisation is needed so that orderly crossing of narrow bridges can take place . Plans must be made. Those furthest from their home countries must be allowed to go first.

Checks must be made so that bogus travellers are turned away. Members of the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, sometimes try to escape disguised as returning prisoners. The American and USSR troops try to manage Traffic. People are de-buried - DDT spray. Displaced persons were interviewed by Allied agents and 'regulated' Before they are allowed to travel, people have to be washed and deloused. Children are often picked up travelling by themselves on the roads and returned to the repatriation centre. Here they are given help such as new shoes and clothes. Families are reunited. The Army is providing services as never before providing for children and even babies. Shots of croweded tracks and of crowds waiting at station. Vehicles which had been used to get supplies to the Front are now used to get people home. Trucks become “heavenly chariots”. Some travel by train and are crowded into the trucks. Thousands go by plane.

99,000 French were flown home by USAF and RAF. Shots of them boarding planes. An aerial view shows Nuremburg Stadium, ‘Hitler’s Playground’, now a scene of bombed Devastation.
View of Paris - Notre Dame. Crowds in Paris greet the returned. Those arriving in Paris discover that it has survived. Reunion faces at station - waiting. We see the arrival at the station of those who had been thought lost. Others are shown waiting for those who never come. Moving scenes in Paris as returned men meet and embrace their relatives.

"Soldiers fight for liberty and the maintenance of democracy, but when they are in action they think only of tanks and machine guns. It is only when the fighting stops that they realise the true purpose of the conflict".

Scenes of battle with American troops, guns and tanks. Next, U.S. truck approaches German labour camp ('Arbeit Macht Frei') in 1945. The liberation of the concentration camps. Hundreds of inmates rush out. Soldiers shake hands with smiling peasants. People on crutches. Emaciated men. Corpses being buried. Children show prison numbers on their arms. Starving men scramble for food. Scenes in military hospital. At a 'People's Court' guards are 'tried'. Thousands of refugees are seen returning home on foot to their own countries. American and USSR troops try to manage traffic. People are de-buried - DDT spray. Displaced persons were interviewed by Allied agents and 'regulated'. Scene in dormitory: Army had to provide for children and even babies. Some travelled by army truck, others by rail. Shots of crowded tracks and of crowds waiting at station. 99,000 French were flown home by USAF and RAF. Shots of them boarding planes. Aerial view of bombed German towns. View of Paris - Notre Dame. Crowds in Paris greet the returned. Reunion faces at station - waiting. Moving scenes in Paris - returned men meet and embrace their relatives.


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