The World War: 1914 - 1945

The World War 1914-1945

Two brutal world wars defined the 20th century. They are usually considered as two separate entities. But what if they are viewed as a continuous narrative of error, ambition and courage? This ground-breaking documentary series views World War I and World War II as a single conflict, achieving new insights into the cause and effect of these vicious conflicts that changed human history forever.

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The World War: 1914 - 1945 on BBC Select

Episode 1: Winter of the World: 1914
In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand makes a global war inevitable.

At the turn of the century, the empires of Hohenzollern, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov dominated Europe. Most were centuries old and keen to stamp out any threat to their power. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand by a Slav nationalist started a chain reaction that inevitably led to conflict. The fate of the world was decided by just a small handful of men as World War I began.

Episode 2: The End of the Road: 1914-1918
The horrors of World War I are unleashed including mass slaughter and starvation.

World War I brings with it trench warfare, poison gas, machine guns, tanks and planes. While men had to endure combat and extreme conditions, civilians dealt with food shortages and bombing raids in their towns and cities. Empires that dominated Europe initially began to fail as Germany and Great Britain fight for supremacy. In the midst of this chaos, a young Adolf Hitler starts to plot.

Episode 3: Too Much Greed: 1919-1929
The seeds are sown for future conflict in communist Russia and the emerging Nazi party.

As World War I ends, the Treaty of Versailles paves the way for the League of Nations. But many are unhappy with the spoils of war. Disgruntled politicians and military leaders take note, and the seeds of World War II are sown. In Russia, Stalin rises as the leader of the Bolsheviks while in Munich the German Workers Party takes a new name: the Nazis. Its star attraction was one Adolf Hitler.

Episode 4: We Will Be the Winners: 1929–1935
As Hitler and Stalin begin to shape the course of history, the world teeters on war.

The 1930s was a time of hedonism for some, but for others war continued to dominate their thoughts. While many countries struggled through a global depression, others used the time to continue in their quest for territory. An ambitious Hitler began to consolidate power in Germany. While Roosevelt attempted to drag America from Depression, the world teetered on the brink of another World War.

Episode 5: Nothing But Force: 1935-1939
Hitler’s unchecked rise to power leads to looming war and instability throughout Europe.

Hitler’s invasion of the Rhineland was a gamble that paid dividends as his push west remained unchecked. In Spain, civil war unfurled, an ideological battle between fascism and communism. The British remained inactive and inarticulate as Europe’s factions formed and realigned. While British leader Chamberlain touted ‘appeasement’, Kristallnacht signaled the many Nazi horrors yet to come.

Episode 6: It’s Impossible for Us to Lose: 1939-1941
As World War II begins, it seems Hitler’s dominant Nazi forces are assured of victory.

As World War II began, alliances were key. With the invasion of Poland, the pretense of peace was gone as France and the UK declared war on Germany. With early Allied losses, Italy joins the Axis forces and declares war, thinking that it will be short lived. With the fall of France in 1940, victory looked inevitable for the Nazis. But Hitler was about to make a supreme error in the east.

Episode 7: Road to World Domination: 1941-1944
Hitler and Japan make strategic operational blunders that lead to their destruction.

With the Germans stuck fighting in a frigid Russian winter, Hitler’s plans had not come to fruition. The Nazis then had to contend with bailing out the Italians in North Africa. With the world distracted, Japan launched their attack on Pearl Harbor. But this event forced American isolationists to join the war in earnest. This was a turning point that changed the course of World War II.

Episode 8: Hope of a Lasting Peace: 1944-1949
As the war comes to an end, the Allies must decide how Germany will be punished.

After victory in North Africa, the invasion of Italy began. Hitler was living the nightmare of a two-front war in Russia, and he was losing. He was not alive to see the surrender of his nation. The devastating nuclear bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese to surrender. The war was over. But if the World Wars were one prolonged conflict, could its aftermath create a lasting peace?

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