As American correspondent and filmmaker Julien Bryan was in Poland when Germany invaded in September 1939, he gave us some of the earliest World War II footage. This short film (10 min.), which focuses on the siege of Warsaw, illustrates the horrors of war from a perspective of terror-stricken civilians. Air raids, fire-bombing, and food shortages all demoralized the defenseless population. Relentless bombing by the German Luftwaffe left hundreds of thousands homeless. Churches and hospitals were not spared; four-day old babies were already exposed to the horrors of war. By the seventh day of hostilities, one-third of Warsaw was already wrecked. To raise morale, Polish radio and newspapers published false reports of victories, but retreating soldiers told a different tale. Civilians had to be impressed to help dig barricades around the beleaguered capital. One man was stopped six times on his way to a store to buy a loaf of bread. People fled on anything they had horses, wagons, baby carriages, etc. In a poignant scene, six women, digging for potatoes, were machine-gunned from airplanes. They were caught between a rock and a hard place, for if they did not dig, their families would starve. See the confused child sitting next to his dead mother's body. See the tortured faces of the victims. Near the very end (9:33 ff.) a Polish teen-aged girl is crying helplessly after losing her sister. One wonders what ever happened to her. Just a few days after the film-shoot the Russians invaded from the east, and Warsaw fell. Poland, finished less than four weeks after the start of the war, was divided between the Germans and the Russians. World War II had begun in Europe.
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