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D-Day To Berlin: The Dream That Died

Airs Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Conference of the Big Three at Yalta makes final plans for the defeat of Germany: Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Premier Josef Stalin, February 1945.

This three-part series recounts the Allies' remarkable progress from the beaches of Normandy to their ultimate victory in Germany 11 months later. Told through the powerful testimonies of those who took part, this is the story of the courage, grit and determination behind one of the greatest military campaigns, and one that changed the course of European life. Using archive and dramatic action to recreate famous battles, the powerful narrative pays homage to the bravery of all those who took part in the defining drama of World War II. A BBC/History Channel co-production.

Final Episode: "The Dream That Died" - “The only answer to total war is total defeat and total occupation.” President Roosevelt warned the German people. This warning was to set the tone for the final months of destruction that would leave Europe torn apart.

Hitler’s last great offensive in the Ardennes failed. With British and American armies poised to cross the Rhine in the west, and Soviet forces advancing towards the River Oder in the East, there was only one offer on the table for Germany – unconditional surrender.

The Allies would not negotiate with a country that had plunged Europe into war twice in thirty years. A new world order would have to emerge, one based on democracy and freedom. But for Goebbels, unconditional surrender was a propaganda gift – evidence that the last battle must be fought for the survival of the German ‘folk’.

With torn picture of his feuhrer beside his clenched fist, a dead general of the Volkssturm lies on the floor of city hall, Leipzig, Germany. He committed suicide rather than face U.S. Army troops who captured the city on April 19, 1945.
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Above: With torn picture of his feuhrer beside his clenched fist, a dead general of the Volkssturm lies on the floor of city hall, Leipzig, Germany. He committed suicide rather than face U.S. Army troops who captured the city on April 19, 1945.

And the Allies seemed to be prepared to go to any lengths to secure their victory. In Feburary, two nights of bombing reduced the city of Dresden to rubble, and Roosevelt and Stalin had already agreed a plan to divide post-war Germany. The Western Allies seemed prepared to trust Stalin to the end. Goebbels predicted that the dream of a new world order would leave Europe divided by an ‘iron curtain’.

"The Dream That Died" offers interviews with German veterans who resisted the Allied advance and who tell of their willingness to fight on to the bitter end. Berlin was left to Stalin and, on April 16th, the Russians began their final assault on the city. Fourteen days later, Hitler was dead, and the streets were commanded by a new army. Even before the victory celebrations were over, a new chill had gripped the alliance. The unconditional surrender of Germany had given birth to a new European order – but it was dominated by Stalin.

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