In this Globe Trekker special, traveller Megan McCormick is joined by Ian Wright, Adela Ucar Innerarity, Justine Shapiro and Estelle Bingham. Together they take viewers on a journey of discovery as they travel to a selection of key World War II key locations across Europe.
Megan begins her journey in a quiet forest in Compiègne in Northern France. It was here that the armistice bringing World War I to an end was signed. Many people believe that as the terms were so punitive against Germany this is also where the seeds of World War II were sown.
We catch up with Ian Wright in Vienna, the birthplace of Hitler, who tells us about Hitler’s early years there. Megan then travels to Nuremberg in Germany. Hitler chose this city as the location for his Nazi Party Rallies in the 1930s that would inspire the German nation to prepare for war.
Hitler’s first sign of expansion was the union with Austria in 1938, as Ian finds out back in Vienna. As the rest of the world continued to turn a blind eye, Hitler continued his expansionunabated. Britain and France finally declared war on Germany after Hitler’s forces invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939.
The Allied forces were quickly overcome by Hitler’s Blitzkrieg (lightening war) and by the end of May 400,000 Allied troops were cornered at Dunkirk in Northern France. Megan travels to the beaches there to learn about the daring evacuation plan the British undertook, and at Henley-on-Thames in England we see some of the surviving Dunkirk veterans and the little ships.
Megan then travels to the Fairford Air Show in southern England to learn more about the Battle of Britain and see some of the surviving aircraft that helped the British to keep Hitler at bay.
Our journey continues to the island of Crete where Adela meets veterans and locals who fill her in on the first major airborne invasion ever when German paratroopers descended in May 1941, causing the allied troops there to evacuate the island.
Buoyed on so many victories, Germany pushed further afield. But 3 key events were to signal a turning of the tide in the war. Firstly, in June 1941, Germany invaded Russia, but… fighting on 2 fronts left her overstretched. Then, in December 1941, Germany’s ally Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, and the USA entered the war, and finally, British Intelligence had a vital breakthrough as they cracked the German’s Enigma Codes. Megan travels to Bletchley Park just north of London and meets a veteran code breaker who explains the vital work they undertook there in the war.
The European Theatre of War stretched as far as North Africa – as control of the Mediterranean coast was so important. We learn more about the Germans’ last stand there from Ian who is at Merath, Tunisia.
As the Allies begin to push the Germans back, we catch up with Estelle Bingham in Anzio, Italy and Justine Shapiro on the Normandy beaches in France where the D-Day Landings took place in June 1944, which would see the German troops being pushed back to their homeland.
Megan then learns about the Lancaster Bombers at Fairford Air show. These British Aircraft were key in bombing German cities in attempt to wear down and defeat the Germans. Megan then travels to Dresden in Germany, the site of horrific and controversial allied bombings just weeks before the end of the war.
Megan then visits Germany’s capital Berlin where the final stages of the war were fought and Hitler commited suicide, just as the Russian and Allied troops began to close in on the German army.
But as one nightmare ended, another started, as the truth about wartime Nazi atrocities and the Nazi concentration camps became fully revealed. Justine Shapiro travels to Auschwitz in Poland, the most infamous of them all, and where several of Justine’s relatives lost their lives.
Our journey ends in Nuremberg, Germany, where Megan visits Courtroom 600, where the surviving Nazi Leaders were put on trial for war crimes against humanity.
Places Mentioned - Austria, England, France, Germany, Greece and the Greek Islands, Japan, Poland, Tunisia, USAShare the series
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