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Case Number 21194: Small Claims Court

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The Third Reich

History Channel // 2010 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // April 23rd, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Kent Dixon recommends this powerful and moving documentary, but warns that it's not for everyone.

The Charge

Their pictures. Their words.

The Case

There's no doubt that one of the darkest times in human history started as Germany began to rebuild after World War I. While the nation struggled to recover and rebuild from the damage it sustained, it seemed that the country might never be able to stand self-sufficient and proud as it once had and that nothing and no one would be able to return Germany to its former pride and glory. As unlikely a savior as he may have seemed at the time and certainly seems to us today, one man would emerge who would ignite the fire in the hearts of the German people and lead them on the path to becoming a great nation once more. That unlikely champion was Adolf Hilter. It's easy for us to criticize the German people for not seeing Hitler's lunacy and darker, psychotic vision, but only the German people themselves could fully appreciate how broken they had become and the lengths it would take to renew their national pride.

With so many documentaries and historical accounts of World War II-era Germany and the rise of the Nazi regime, what is left to say? What stories could possibly remain to be told? Produced by the History Channel and airing on A&E in 2010, The Third Reich sheds new light and adds new perspective to this dark time. The Third Reich is composed of two 90-minute, standalone parts: "The Rise" and "The Fall." One of the most powerful elements of the production is the narration that both sets the stage for the on-screen events and also relates the personal accounts of contemporary eyewitnesses, both German and not, who lived at the time the events took place. We're experiencing their words, as they communicate personal experiences and emotions they felt in the moment, at the time.

Building from there, all on-screen images are compiled from actual archival footage, comprised of everything from home movies and newsreels to propaganda films and other content. Throughout both "The Rise" and "The Fall," viewers are seeing contemporary footage shot by people who were there as the events took place. At first, this isn't particularly noteworthy, but it quickly sinks in that where some documentaries rely on reenactments or dramatizations of historical events, we're seeing what actually happened, when and where it happened; we're seeing these events as though we were there as well. Make no mistake, while there is a lot of new footage here and some of it is inspiring and powerful, there is also a lot of disturbing content that may be unsettling to some viewers; those bold on-screen warnings are there for a reason.

It seems almost ridiculous to rate the A/V presentation here as, aside from the contemporary narration, every piece of this production is historical footage. I encourage viewers to immerse themselves in the varied pieces of footage and let them take you back in time…it's a fascinating, albeit disturbing and devastating trip. There are no extra features included with this release, but at least for me, there wouldn't be much that could have been added without taking away from the powerful feature content.

The Verdict

The Third Reich offers no happy ending, but sheds new light into a dark corner and helps us to better understand the German people and their history.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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