The armies of the countries of mainland Europe were powerless to stop Hitler’s war machine as it crushed all in its path during the early months of World War 2. The terrifying tactic of ‘Blitzkrieg’ saw city after city fall beneath the Nazi jackboot. The people of previously free counties began to look for a way to fight back. There were ways to defeat an army other than on the battlefield.
Europe’s Secret Armies is a thrilling exploration of the stories behind the resistance and partisan groups that formed to fight a hated oppressor. These were civilian armies; made up of ordinary men and women left with no other option but to go underground to strike back. The series hears from those who were not content to bend the knee or were not prepared to be part of Adof Hitler’s ever-growing Third Reich.
Freedom fighters risked torture, imprisonment and death throughout Europe: France’s Maquis, the mountaineers of Crete, heroes and heroines from the Low Countries, Norway, Poland rose up, not least inside the tyrant’s own land, Germany. Includes archival footage, re-creations, and interviews with actual resistance fighters.
Eagle Media Production for Discovery Networks Europe
Part 1: The Frech Resistance
Resistance to the German occupation of France began in 1940, but at first it was disorganised and spontaneous. We hear how the Resistance organised itself into a far more cogent force that carried out acts of sabotage, aided the escape of Allied prisoners of war and provided vital intelligence information for the Allied military. By the time the feared occupation of France by German troops had become reality, French resistance had already sprouted its first tenuous roots. Clandestine groups intent on disrupting and harrying the occupying force played no small role in bringing the Third Reich to an end. Sabotage, propaganda and espionage were just a few of the methods adopted by the brave men and women of the French Resistance. Supplied by the British, although initially riven by internal political dissension between the Communists and other factions, the French Resistance managed to create havoc behind the lines in the run up to the D-Day invasion in 1944. Features eyewitness accounts and interviews with survivors, as well as rare archive footage and a profile of resistance leader Jean Moulin.
Part 2: Germany: Resisting from Within
The level of resistance to Hitler in his native country is a largely untold story. In this episode we tell the story both of the growth of small pockets of resistance throughout Germany and the plot at the centre of power that led to the failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler on the 20th of July 1944. Far from being willing participants in the Wehrmacht’s march across the world, many Germans openly or covertly opposed the Nazi regime. Religious leaders, students and even his own generals conspired against Hitler through anti-Nazi material, sabotage and several unsuccessful assassination attempts culminating in the July 20th 1944 bombing. Despite the Enabling Act of 1933 these groups, which were often born of fear and resentment, were numerous before the war and many survived through it. Organisations such as the Solf Circle, the Kreisau Circle, the Eilbeck Comrades and the Neu Beginnen played a major role in the gradual erosion of Hitler’s power on the home front. Features rare archive footage as well as dramatised reconstructions and profiles of Hitler and his generals.
Part 3: The Polish Resistance
The Polish people were among the first to feel the full heart-stopping force of the German Wermacht. This is the story of the ways in which they fought back, including the Ghetto Uprising of 1943 – ‘it’s happened, the Jews have started fighting” – an event that even Goebbels admitted led to a ‘truly grotesque situation’. Unlike many of the other European countries that suffered invasion during World War Two, Poland had the unenviable task of fighting foes on two fronts; the Germans from the west and the Russians from the east. As a direct result the Polish resistance fashioned itself into one of the most professional and successful underground forces in Europe. From S.O.E. trained ‘Cichociemni’ to the Jewish population in the Warsaw ghettos, the spirit of the Polish people proved indestructible beneath the Nazi jackboot. Featuring interviews with surviving veterans, as well as rare archive footage and new location footage.
Part 4: The Mountain Men of Crete
The Germans invaded Crete on May 20th 1941. Its geographical importance in both German and Allied planning for the domination of the Mediterranean and Africa was to prove Crete’s downfall. As the Germans mounted ‘Operation Mercury’ a ragbag collection of defenders readied themselves for the onslaught. Nazi intelligence had assured the attacking force that their presence on the island would be welcomed by the presumed docile inhabitants. The local Cretans, along with an eclectic mix of Allied troops, would prove that intelligence flawed. This episode tells the story of the mistakes and miscalculations made by both the British and German armies as they fought for control of the Island and how the ‘mountain men’ of Crete played a crucial role in the allied fight back. With the island captured in bloody fighting by the Germans, the skillful native fighters of Crete would prove a significant thorn in the side of the occupying German army. Includes interviews with surviving veterans and eyewitness accounts, as well as rare archive footage.
Part 5: The Secret Armies of the Low Countries
Focusing on the plight of the Dutch people, this episode examines the resistance which confronted the Germans during their occupation of Holland. In a regime where distributing anti-Nazi leaflets carried the same punishment as being found with a gun, the men and woman of Holland showed extraordinary bravery as they sought to regain their independence. Featuring interviews with surviving resistance fighters as well as rare archive footage and dramatised reconstructions, this programme explores the stories of individuals and a nation that refused to succumb to fear.
Part 6: Norwegian Heroes
After the German invasion of 1940, the Norwegian government fled to London, leaving the country in the hands of the collaborator Quisling. However, Norway’s resistance movement soon became the most effective in all Nazi-occupied Europe – ordinary people everywhere risked their lives to work with the British SOE, participating through intelligence gathering, sabotage, raids, espionage and escort for citizens fleeing the border to neutral Sweden. The most successful act of sabotage in WWII was Operation Gunnerside, the disabling of the heavy-water plant in Vemork. Working alone or with the help of the S.O.E., Norwegian men and women refused to roll over and proved invaluable in bringing an end to Nazi domination across Europe. Includes interviews with surviving veterans, as well rare archive footage.