The world at war

The World at War ( The World at War ) is a documentary series for television broadcast between 1973 and 1974 on World War II and the events that led to it and those that occurred immediately after. It was produced by Jeremy Isaacs, written and co-produced by Peter Batty and narrated by Lawrence Olivier . Carl Davis composed his soundtrack. A book, The World at War , was written by Mark Arnold-Forster as a supplement to it. She was awarded the Emmy Award.

The series has often been considered as the best and definitive documentary on the history of World War II made for television. He also presented rare color film images of some of the events of the war.

In a survey conducted in 2000 by the British Film Institute, which featured media professionals, on the 100 best programs broadcast on British television, The World at War ranked 19th.

In Spain, the series was published on DVD, renamed as World War II , on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of that war.


The series was commissioned by Thames Television in 1969. Due to the diligence of its investigation, it took four years to produce it at a cost of 900,000 pounds (10.9 million euros in 2006). At the time, it was a record for a British television series. The series was aired on the UK ITV channel between October 31, 1993 and May 8, 1994, and has subsequently been seen around the world. The Danish channel DR2 broadcast it between December 2006 and January 2007, while El Canal Historia de Japón broadcast it in its entirety in April 2007.

Each episode lasts approximately 52 minutes, not counting the central intermediate accustomed in the ITV of the time. The episode on the Jewish genocide was projected without such an interruption.

The leaders of the Allied Powers and Axis Powers were interviewed , including accounts of civilian and military witnesses, officials and politicians, including Albert Speer , Karl Dönitz , Walter Warlimont , James Stewart , Bill Mauldin , Curtis LeMay , Lord Mountbatten of Burma , Alger Hiss , Toshikazu Kase , Mitsuo Fuchida , Minoru Genda , JB Priestley , Brian Horrocks , John J. McCloy , Lawrence Durrell , Arthur Harris , Charles Sweeney , Paul Tibbets , Anthony Eden , Traudl Junge And the historian Stephen Ambrose .

In The Making of “The World at War” program , included as an extra on the DVD, Jeremy Isaacs explains that priority was given to interviews with survivors and assistants instead of tapping into recognized figures. The most difficult person to locate and persuade to be interviewed was Heinrich Himmler’s assistant , Karl Wolff . During the interview, he admitted to witnessing a massive execution with Himmler.

The episodes

The series consists of 26 episodes. Produced by Jeremy Isaacs, he was advised by Noble Frankland, then director of the Imperial War Museum. Fifteen of the chapters are devoted to so many key campaigns of the war. The remaining eleven chapters are devoted to other issues, such as home life in Britain and Germany, the experience of occupation in the Netherlands and the Holocaust .

  • The New GermanyA New Germany (1933-1939)

Germany, a nation condemned by the humiliating defeat in World War I , emerging from an overwhelming economic depression, sets its sights on a man for the rebirth of hope and dignity. That man is Adolf Hitler … The history of World War II begins in the early 1930s, showing how Adolf Hitler came to power with the full support of millions of Germans. Newspapers of that day and home movies made by Eva Braun , Hitler’s mistress, show the Führer just as he should have appeared before his people. The historical retrospective and knowledge of what some members of the Nazi hierarchy were doing, under the cover of intelligent propaganda, gives a very sinister look to these shots. This episode also shows us images of the parade, which the Imperial War Museum has cataloged with the name of “How to make a parade”. It includes testimonies of Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, Werner Pusch and Christabel Bielenberg.

  • Far WarDistant War (September 1939 – May 1940)

In Eastern Europe, the power of the Nazi war machine continues to advance; Britain is beginning to feel great uneasiness throughout the nation; Is the strange war of 1939, with the sound of cannons rumbling threateningly on the horizon … With Churchill’s recent election as Prime Minister, Britain is not prepared for war and there are few people who take the situation with the Due seriousness. As Minister of the Navy, Churchill uses his deep knowledge of the value of propaganda and takes full advantage of the sinking of the Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate . Meanwhile, in other parts of Europe, the dark night of Nazi terror continues … Includes testimonies from Lord Boothby, Lord Butler, Admiral Charles Woodhouse, Sir Martin Lindsay and Sir John “Jock” Colville.

  • Cae FranceFrance Falls (May – June 1940)

The French had made the disastrous mistake of preparing for another confrontation such as the First World War. France had the largest of the European armies before the war and the protection of the heavily fortified Maginot Line . Incredibly the Line did not reach the Channel and the German invaders simply had to surround the defenses and move towards the South. The French army is humiliated, Paris is captured and France falls. The British Expeditionary Army recedes; Hitler remains serene and prepared to invade Britain. It includes testimonies of General Hasso von Manteuffel and General André Beaufre.

  • SolosAlone (May 1940 – May 1941)

Under the leadership of Winston Churchill , Britain continues the struggle alone, with the motto of “we will not surrender”. About 350,000 men, allied troops, have to be rescued from Dunkirk , British morale had never been so low. In the run-up to failure, despite the heroism of the RAF in the defeat of the Luftwaffe , with defeated France, the USA without engaging in the contest and the Russian pact with Hitler still in force, Britain is alone, saving itself thanks to Hitler’s decision to launch his offensive against Russia. It includes testimonies of Anthony Eden, JB Priestley, Sir Max Aitken, Lieutenant General Adolf Galland and Sir John “Jock” Colville.

  • Operation BarbarossaBarbarossa (June – December 1941)

Germany, now owner of Europe, including the Balkans , is facing Russia. The first clashes are met with devastating victories of the Germans, thanks to the Panzers, who move at a frightening speed into the interior of Russia. But the German High Command is suffering a fatal delay and the advance is stopped a few kilometers from Moscow, when the mud and later the fierce Russian cold win the match. It includes testimonies of General Walter Warlimont, Albert Speer, Paul Schmidt and W. Averell Harriman.

  • BanzaiBanzai !: Japan (1931-1942)

December 1941; Japan seeks to have free access to the raw materials it needs for its expansion, but negotiations are long and heavy, causing Japan to tire of them and attack Pearl Harbor , inflicting a serious blow to American naval forces. In a few months, Japan demonstrates how weakly prepared the Allies are and rampage in Hong Kong, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, the East Indies of the Netherlands and the Philippines.

  • En caminoOn Our Way: USA (1939-1942)

The conflicts in Europe and the Pacific are two separate wars. Many Americans choose to forget about Hitler and Europe, concentrating their efforts on their war against the Japanese. President Roosevelt is committed to fighting Hitler, opposing Congress. Inexplicably, Hitler declares war on America, thus relieving Roosevelt of a difficult decision, which will ultimately alter the course of the war. Includes testimonials from John Kenneth Galbraith, John J. McCloy, Paul Samuelson, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Tregaskis and Vannevar Bush.

  • The DesertThe Desert: North Africa (1940-1943)

The war in North Africa takes almost three years to resolve, fighting tirelessly over the 600 miles of desert between Alexandria and Benghazi, in Cyrenaica (Libya), before the “Montgomery Desert Rats” defeat To the Africa Korps of Rommel in El Alamein . The Germans are expelled from North Africa and the road seems clear to the most defenseless part of Europe … Italy. Includes testimony from General Richard O’Connor, Major General Francis de Guingand and Lawrence Durrell.

  • StalingradStalingrad (June 1942 – February 1943)

The German army is cornered and defeated in Stalingrad . The number of soldiers killed is very high. For the first time, the Germans are beaten on the battlefield. The legend of German rule over the earth fades when people prove themselves that, using valor and intelligence, the Reich’s army, can be defeated.

  • Wolf PackWolf Pack: U-Boats in the Atlantic (1939-1943)

The Germans try to deprive Britain of food by attacking their supply ships from North Africa … they almost succeed. Many tons of boats sink and many lives are lost in the U-boat attacks of Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz. Allied merchant ships, despite their convoy techniques, the escorts of the Navy and the elemental underwater detection mechanisms, are extremely vulnerable. Dönitz and some of his U-boat commanders, as well as some British officers and mariners of the merchant navy who survived after their boats were sunk in the Atlantic, appear in this episode. Includes testimonies of Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz and Otto Kretschmer.

  • Red StarRed Star: The Soviet Union (1941-1943)

The story of Russia’s bloody and solitary war with its 20,000,000 military and civilian casualties, narrated by a Leningrad housewife who survived the siege of 890 days, from September 1941 to January 1944. She is Agreeing that she was very fortunate to have survived. In its city of three million people, 200,000 people died under German fire and about 630,000 died of cold or famine. Incredibly the Russians not only survived, but managed to defeat the Germans.

  • Metallic WindWhirlwind: Bombing Germany (September 1939 – April 1944)

The German bombardment of Britain causes a shrill public plea for revenge. But towards the end of 1941 the British forces, composed of 700 airplanes, are being severely depleted by the battles of North Africa and the Atlantic. The arrival of Arthur “Bomber” Harris to take charge of the Bomber Command announces a new attitude. Harris is in favor of revenge, proclaiming publicly, “They have sown the wind and now they will pick up the whirlwind.” Most importantly, he believes the bombing can by itself defeat Germany … Including testimonies of Sir Arthur Harris, Albert Speer, James Stewart, William Reid, General Curtis LeMay, Werner Schröer, Lieutenant General Adolf Galland and General Ira C. Eaker.

  • The Hard GutsTough Old Gut: Italy (1943-1944)

Winston Churchill describes Stalin the Mediterranean as “the crocodile’s soft belly.” It is their arguments that persuade the Americans to join the Allied side. In November 1942, eleven months after Pearl Harbor, they had a meeting with the Wehrmacht for the first time. In Tunisia he experienced the worst defeat in the war, by the best equipped and experienced soldiers of the German army, the “Africa Korps”. Mussolini is deposed and the victory in Sicily revives the British soldiers. The allied raid on the mainland, in Salerno , progresses towards the North with great climatological difficulties due to the rude Italian winter. Includes testimony from General Mark Wayne Clark, Field Marshal Lord Harding, Bill Mauldin and Wynford Vaughan Thomas.

  • Tomorrow will be a wonderful dayIt’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma (1942-1944)

Monsoon weather conditions for five months a year, aggravated by disease problems, make the situation of the Burma army “a real nightmare”. The Europeans find themselves strangers in the jungle conditions. On the contrary, the ability of the Japanese, not only to support but also to operate in the same circumstances, helps them to build a myth of “Superman” against the soldiers of the allied army. Towards the month of May the British army is expelled from the country, after the greater of the military withdrawals that are remembered. The casualties are very numerous and thousands of Allied troops are captured by the Japanese. The arrival of Mountbatten and his seizure of command in South-West Asia, makes a 180 ° turn to the morale of these men. The myth of “Superman” of the Japanese soldiers is forgotten before his first defeat in Arrakan. It includes testimonies of Mike Calvert, Sir John Smyth, singer Vera Lynn (the title of the episode is the name of one of his songs), and Lord Mountbatten of Burma.

  • The Homeland BurnsHome Fires: Britain (1940-1944)

The defeat suffered by the Luftwaffe in the battle of England, makes change the direction of its bombings towards provincial cities, like Portsmouth, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol. In all of them it suffers low and serious damages, being Coventry and Plymouth the cities that are more harmed. In Coventry, for example, the very heart of the city is torn away and the situation becomes desperate. Includes testimonials from Lord Butler, Lord Shinwell, Lord Chandos, Tom Driberg, Michael Foot, Cecil Harmsworth King and JB Priestley.

  • Inside the ReichInside the Reich: Germany (1940-1944)

In the summer of 1940, German forces were the true conquerors of Western Europe. For the Germans, the war was over. The German cities have not been touched and the Nazi Regime, seeking popularity, ensures that most of the goods, existing in times of peace, continue in stores. There are no plans for a long struggle, being a happy time for the Germans, who even increase the birth rate. It includes testimonies of Albert Speer, Otto John, Traudl Junge, Richard Schulze-Kossens and Otto Ernst Remer (to whom voice Lawrence Olivier).

  • MorningMorning: (June – August 1944)

In the early hours of the morning of June 6, 1944, a large amphibious invasion force reaches the beaches of Normandy. Americans, British and Canadians attack five different beaches, and although they manage to get hold of all the beachheads they find a strong opposition and suffer many casualties. Includes testimony from Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Kay Summersby, James Martin Stagg and Major General J. Lawton Collins.

  • The OccupationOccupation: Holland (1940-1944)

Holland, a neutral country, is attacked without warning in 1940; To stem the bloodshed, capitulates quickly after Rotterdam is mercilessly bombed. Subtly, the Germans proceed to occupy the Netherlands, with promises of “non-animosity.” Most of the Dutch find the situation easy to bear, without influencing too much the daily rhythm of their lives. It includes testimonies of Louis de Jong (who served as advisor to this episode) and Prince Bernhard of Holland.

  • PincersPincers: (August 1944 – March 1945)

Paris was released on August 25, 1944. The war could, for some, be overthrown. The Russians from the East, and the allies from the South and the West are ready to advance on German territory. The disparity of views between Montgomery and Eisenhower reaches its critical point. The plans of Americans are to advance on a broad front; Montgomery wants a short air strike that explodes through the Ruhr … so is the bombing of Arnhem. Includes testimony of Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks, Wynford Vaughan Thomas, General Hasso von Manteuffel, Major General Francis de Guingand, W. Averell Harriman and Major General J. Lawton Collins.

  • GenocideGenocide (1941-1945)

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Heinrich Himmler was already the Reichsführer of the SS. The new eminence of the National Socialist Party was free to undertake the realization of its dream: the awakening of the Germanic race within the German people. Himmler had refined the philosophy of Nazism, as well as his ideas on politics and on race. His aim was to recreate the old “Aryan” Germany.

  • NemesisNemesis: Germany (February – May 1945)

As the allied front lines are closing the siege on Germany, the casualties are counted by thousands. Thousands of men die in the RAF attacks that crush the front, both day and night. Allied prisoners of war are released by their comrades, while German soldiers are captured in the thousands. In his bunker, Hitler and those around him face the end of the Reich. Goering and Himmler betray the Führer and he decides to self-destruct, marrying before, with his loyal Eva Braun. Includes testimonials from Albert Speer, Traudl Junge and Heinz Linge.

  • JapanJapan (1941-1945)

Many Japanese were stunned and fearful to hear the declaration of war in 1941. But after the victories of Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore their first fears vanished, beginning to believe that their spiritual strength and discipline would defeat the allies. By 1944 the balance was completely against Japan, but still they defended their homes, ignoring the terrible weapon that was going to be used against them, and that would represent the end of the war. Japanese soldiers were proud to put into practice the martial code of the Samurais , consisting of fierce attacks and devoid of any feeling of pity towards the enemy.

  • PacificPacific (February 1942 – July 1945)

The responsibility for the Allied offensive in the Pacific fell to two men in conflict: General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. The troops of the former extended from the Solomon Islands and New Guinea to the Philippines; And the men under the command of the second jumped from island to island, beginning their voyage, in November 1943, on the atoll of Tarawa . The possibility of attacking from two fronts made the American High Command believe that “the task” was going to be easy, but the casualties they suffered showed them wrong. On the island of Pelelieu, four out of ten Americans who took part in the fighting fell dead or wounded. The battle of Iwo Jima was a great bloodbath, payment in human lives was one of the terrible legacies left by the war.

  • The BombThe Bomb (February – September 1945)

On August 6, 1945, the American bomber B-29 called ” Enola Gay “, named after the mother of the pilot, Paul Tibbets, dropped the first uranium bomb that was launched in the world, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima . Four days later a second bomb was launched in Nagasaki . The reason given by the Americans to justify the action was to save thousands of Allied lives, anticipating an invasion of Japanese territory. The US Atomic Bomb Study Committee Recommended that it be used as soon as possible … without prior warning to enemy military forces. Some Americans believed that the Japanese, through a just negotiation, would have come to surrender, thus avoiding the catastrophe. On September 15, 1945, the Japanese Foreign Minister signed the surrender. Includes testimonies of Toshikazu Kase, Yoshio Kodama, Marquis Koichi Kido, Major General Charles Sweeney, Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, Alger Hiss, W. Averell Harriman, Lord Avon, McGeorge Bundy, John J. McCloy, General Curtis LeMay and Hisatsune Sakomizu.

  • Account SettingsReckoning (April 1945)

The end of the war in Central Europe is a period in which there is no compassion. Disorder and confusion reign. The fundamental intervention of Russia and America means that no European nation can win. In San Francisco, in April 1945, the United Nations was born to “build a solid structure on which to build a better world.” Germany remains the key to European problems, no one wants it to be strong again, but neither will they accept the responsibility to keep it in ruin forever. Russia, the United States, Great Britain and France agree to participate in its reconstruction and resume commercial relations, but there is still a mutual mistrust between the superpowers … Some Nazis take their own lives, others appear before the Nuremberg tribunal where they will be tried For his crimes against Peace and Humanity. Includes testimonials from Charles Bohlen, Stephen Ambrose, Lord Avon, Lord Mountbatten of Burma and Noble Frankland.

  • RememberingRemember

During World War II, 20 million Russians died, including prisoners, men and women, soldiers and civilians. Britain and the Commonwealth lost about 4 million people, 60,000 of them were civilians killed during the bombings. Germany, in the war that began, lost about five million people. Two and a half million Japanese disappeared forever. The United States, which was neither invaded nor bombed, lost about 300,000 men. Those who lost close relatives remember with sadness the moment they received the news. Many still remember him, every year, in meetings, in the cenotaph and in the cemeteries.

Additional Episodes

Some images and interviews that were not used in the original series, with the narration of Eric Porter, were added to the edition in VHS and later included as extras in the DVD.

  • 1. Secretary to Hitler (Secretary of Hitler)
  • 2. Warrior (Warrior)
  • 3. Hitler’s Germany: The People’s Community (1933-1939) (Hitler’s Germany: the Community of the People (1933-1939))
  • 4. Hitler’s Germany: Total War (1939-1945) ( Hitler’s Germany: Total War (1939-1945))
  • 5. The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler (The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler)
  • 6. The Final Solution: Part One ( The Final Solution: Part One )
  • 7. The Final Solution: Part Two ( The Final Solution: Part Two )
  • 8. From War to Peace (From War to Peace)


The original book of The World at War that accompanied the series was written by Mark Arnold-Forster in 1973.

In October 2007, the British publisher Ebury Press published The World at War , a new book by Richard Holmes, an oral history of World War II extracted from the interviews made for the television series. Only a fraction of the hundreds of hours of recorded interviews came to the final cut. A selection of this material was published in this book, which includes interviews with Albert Speer, Karl Wolff (assistant of Himmler), Traudl Junge (secretary of Hitler), James Stewart (pilot of a USAF bomber and Hollywood star), Anthony Eden , John Colville (parliamentarian and private secretary of Winston Churchill), Averell Harriman (US ambassador to Russia) and Arthur Harris (Chief of the RAF Bomber Command).

  • This article has been created from the translation of its edition on the English Wikipedia and the DVD.