In this episode of the Why We Fight propaganda series, the events from the English and French declarations of war against Nazi Germany to the conquest of France by the Nazi. In detail, we learn of how a combination of innovative Nazi military tactics and the work of traitors allowed the conquest of much of Central Europe.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
In the year 2000, the United States Library of Congress mandated that this film (and the other six documentaries in the 'Why We Fight' series)were "culturally significant" and selected them for preservation in the National Film Registry. See more »
Some of the film of the invasion of Norway show Italian bombers attacking British ships. The Italian Air Force was not involved in the invasion of Norway. See more »
It's hard to believe that Americans needed any propaganda in the Second World War to encourage them to support the fight against Nazism. However, up until Pearl Harbour, this was the case. Many Americans took an isolationist attitude, believing that events in Europe were none of their business. Some German-Americans and others formed Bund Societies, actively supporting the Nazi cause! Of course, all this changed on 7 December 1941...
'Divide and Conquer' is rather pale propaganda, intended to stir up American support for the fight against Hitler. While the cause is admirable, this is weak stuff. We see newsreel footage of Hitler making radio speeches in German, calmly assuring Denmark and Holland that they have nothing to fear from Germany. Then we see footage of German ships and tanks invading those nations.
Walter Huston, as the primary narrator, commendably avoids histrionics, but unfortunately reads his lines from a script which requires him to editorialise, telling us how evil and untrustworthy Hitler is. The events ought to speak for themselves. At one point, we are treated to a brief and utterly gratuitous snip of footage depicting bank-robber John Dillinger glowering at the camera, so that Huston can compare Dillinger to Hitler. That's a bad choice: in the 1940s, many Americans considered the late Dillinger a sort of folk hero.
The most interesting parts of this film are the clips of German battle footage, apparently captured by Allied forces. We also see footage of 'undesirables' in occupied France being loaded into tumbrels by their Nazi captors and driven hell-knows-where. What makes this footage powerful is the fact that we see the same faces in more than one shot, forcing us to realise that each of these faces is a specific human being with a real history and a past ... though perhaps not much future.
There are some extremely crude animation sequences, depicting arrows moving across Europe to indicate the Nazi advance. These animations were made very inexpensively, and look it, but perhaps that's a point in their favour. The Nazis spent a huge amount of money on 'Kolberg', a ridiculous propaganda film which required them to divert forces and materiel from the western and eastern fronts. By spending so very little money on 'Divide and Conquer', perhaps the U.S. government was able to spend a bit more on feeding the troops who had to win the war. Bless you all, band of brothers.
'Divide and Conquer' has very little to offer as cinema, and even less to offer as history: if you want to learn about the Second World War, this film is not remotely one of the best places to start. This film has outlived its usefulness ... but only because the Good Guys won that war: a victory which may have happened partially because of the G.I.s depicted in this film. God bless America, but I'm being generous when I rate this dull documentary. Just 4 out of 10, then.
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