To commemorate the 67th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, “The Liberty Express” will take you to the spot in Berlin, Germany (Karlshorst) where the unconditional surrender was signed at midnight, May 8, 1945.
I filmed this half hour segment 20 years ago, in 1992 when Germany had been reunified but the Russians were still in Berlin (on their way home in fact).
It’s a half hour because the building was (in 1992; I doubt it still is today) a museum controlled by the Russians. It tells (told) the history of the war from the Soviet perspective. In fact, our guide was a young Russian woman who had learned her propaganda very well…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Is there?
The place wasn’t exactly crawling with tourists. In fact, my friend Jim and I were the only two people there; we were given our own private tour. My friend was fond of meeting Russian soldiers; in fact, he was talking with one while I was filming the tanks which served as the vanguard of the Russian attack on Berlin in May, 1945. When I asked Jim if the soldier spoke German, he responded, “Only Russian.” Somehow Jim always managed to communicate despite language barriers.
The guide spoke rather charming English. When she pointed out General Zhukov, one of the great military men who helped defeat the Germans, I waited until she turned away to quietly note, “He was also sent back to Berlin to watch over things when the wall went up in 1961.”
The film ends with something else I’m sure the Soviets would not totally have approved of, but hey, the building was open to the public! I had just read Robert Conot’s book “Justice At Nuremberg” and I had copied a particularly gruesome passage on the fate of the Nazi war criminals. Lo and behold, photos of the men (laid out after being hanged) were hung in the museum. I filmed them as I read the passage from Conot.
I’m rather proud of the segment, the passage read being coupled with the death throes of some very bad men. At one point, the Russian guide had to point out Sauckel for me. (Goring of course had, as they say, “cheated the hangman” by chomping on a cyanide capsule just before the big day; his dead body, however, is alo pictured; truly gory; you'll love it).
In six weeks or so, I’ll take you back to another museum in Berlin, one which was commemorating the June, 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. I have more than 50 hours of such fun stuff, including a trip to the Krupp mansion in Essen (maybe next week).
History sure is fun.
“The Liberty Express” is always available at vimeo.com/channels/libertyx. It airs on Manchestertv23 Mondays at 10 p.m., Thursdays at 9 p.m., Sundays at 6 a.m. and again at noon.