- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2005

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the surrender of Germany and Japan to the Allies, here’s a group of multimedia discs chronicling the heroism, horror and action of World War II.

I thought New Video’s 11-disc “The World at War: The Collector’s Edition” had done a fantastic job of giving a too-realistic look into the enormity of World War II — until I began watching the BBC History of World War II (from BBC Worldwide Americas for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $149.98).

This mammoth 12-disc set compiles 10 exhaustive BBC series and contains more than 34 hours of content, with a bevy of bonus documentaries that will captivate students, veterans and amateur historians.

Each of the multihour programs presents primary resource footage, interviews with scholars, eyewitness and soldier testimonies, re-enactments and documentation that will elicit an incredible mix of emotions from the viewer.

Highlights to the set include a three-part series on the evacuation of Dunkirk; a 200-minute examination of Germany’s war against the Soviet Union, which cost millions of lives; and an examination by professor Richard Holmes of four key campaigns — El Alamein, Monte Cassino, Operation Market Garden and Britain’s famed bomber squadrons runs.

Two particular series, however, stand out as having the most impact and reveal one of the lowest points the human race has ever survived.

First, “The Nazis: A Warning From History” has historian Laurence Rees trying to make sense of the culture of Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the subsequent atrocities executed by his loyal henchmen.

Next, Mr. Rees offers “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State,” a comprehensive look at the Third Reich’s most lethal death camp, revealed over five hours through hundreds of eyewitness accounts and even computer reconstructions of the environment.

Listening to former SS guards still standing by their actions is a chilling reminder of what humans are capable of doing.

Viewers more in the mood for big-screen epics will appreciate Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Fox War Classics Series on DVD.

The best of the battling bunch include George C. Scott starring as the controversial U.S. Gen. George S. Patton, James Mason as the Nazis’ brilliant tank strategist Gen. Erwin Rommel in The Desert Fox, Hollywood’s take on D-Day in The Longest Day and The Desert Rats, about a group of Australian troops who stifle the Germans’ capture of the Suez Canal. (Fifty cents of each movie’s $14.98 price goes to the USO.)

After submersion into an often-grim history lesson, video gamers can turn to Medal of Honor: European Assault (for Xbox and PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99), a sequel to EA Games’ popular first-person shooter war simulation.

The latest release takes players back to 1942 as the German war machine threatens to crush all opposition in Europe. The player assumes the role of U.S. Army Lt. William Holt, picked by Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan to be the first field agent of the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (the OSS).

The free-roaming supersoldier leads a squad into familiar World War II campaigns such as St. Nazaire, North Africa, Stalingrad and the Battle of the Bulge with specific missions to recover V2 rocket plans, destroy the actual rockets and eradicate Germany’s nuclear bomb program.

As intriguing as this sounds, players basically deal with ducking and shooting at enemies while trying to control a three-man squad that has very little interest in listening (but is willing to handle some of the dirty work). A wide range of authentic weapons and plenty of Third Reich minions and commanders await, with four difficulty levels to accommodate the most amateur of warriors.

Not as historically deep or as chaotically realistic as Ubisoft’s Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 ($29.99), European Assault works best as an introduction into the first-person war genre.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@ washington times.com).

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