The World at War is a 26-episode television documentary series on World War II, including the events leading up to it and following in its wake. The series was produced by Jeremy Isaacs for Thames Television (UK). Commissioned in 1969, it took four years to produce, such was the depth of its research. It premiered on ITV in 1973 at a cost of £900,000 (2006: £10.9m), a then record for a British television programme. The series was narrated by Laurence Olivier and its score was composed by Carl Davis. A book, The World at War, was written to accompany the series by Mark Arnold-Forster.
Jeremy Isaacs says in "The Making of The World at War" (included on the DVD set) that he sought to interview, not necessarily the surviving big names, but their aides and assistants. The most difficult subject to locate and persuade to be interviewed, according to Isaacs, was Heinrich Himmler's adjutant, Karl Wolff. The latter admitted to witnessing a large-scale execution in Himmler's presence.
It is often considered[by whom?] to be the definitive television history of the Second World War. Some[who?] consider it the finest example of the documentary form. It also presented rare colour film footage of some of the war's events.
Stalingrad (June 1942 – February 1943)
The mid-war German situation in Southern Russia leading to the Battle of Stalingrad – and its ultimate German catastrophe.
Wolfpack: U-Boats in the Atlantic (1939–1943)
The submarine war focusing mainly on the North Atlantic. Tracks the development of both the convoy system and German submarine strategy. Interviewees include Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz and Otto Kretschmer.
Inside the Reich: Germany (1940–1944)
German society and how it changes as its fortunes in war are reversed. Censorship and popular entertainment, the transformation of German industry, the recruitment of female and foreign labour, allied bombing, German dissent - including the 20 July plot, and the mobilisation of the Volkssturm towards the war's end. Interviewees include Albert Speer, Otto John, Traudl Junge, Richard Schulze-Kossens, and Otto Ernst Remer (English translation spoken by Lawrence Olivier).
Begins with the founding of the S.S. and follows the development of German racial theory. It ends with the implementation of the Final Solution.
Nemesis: Germany (February – May 1945)
The final invasion of Germany by both the Western and Eastern allies, and the denouement at Dresden. Interviewees include Albert Speer, Traudl Junge and Heinz Linge.
Pacific: (February 1942 – July 1945)
The successive and increasingly bloody land battles on tiny islands in the expansive Pacific, aimed towards the Japanese heartland. Following the bombing of Darwin, the Japanese are progressively turned back at Kokoda, Tarawa, Peleilu, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and finally Okinawa.
World War II's influence in a post-war world
The series was originally transmitted on the ITV network in the United Kingdom between 31 October1973 and 8 May1974, and has subsequently been shown around the world. The Danish channel DR2 also broadcast the series in December 2006 and January 2007. The History Channel in Japan began screening the series in its entirety in April 2007.
Each episode was 52 minutes excluding commercials; as was customary for ITV documentary series at the time, it was originally screened with only one central break. The Genocide episode was screened uninterrupted.
The series was also put on 13 Laservision Longplay videodisks by Video Garant Amsterdam 1980, included Dutch subtitling for the Dutch Video Market.
Some footage and interviews which were not used in the original series were later made into additional hour or half-hour documentaries narrated by Eric Porter. These were released as a bonus to the VHS version and are included in the DVD set of the series.
Secretary to Hitler
Hitler's Germany – The People's Community (1933–1939)
In July 2007, the British Daily Mail newspaper began a free DVD promotion of 14 selected episodes of the series, primarily those which focused on British or Commonwealth subjects. The first disc was given away with the edition of 6 July, while a further disc could be claimed on each subsequent day (Sundays excepted) with a voucher redeemable at branches of W H Smith or Easons retailers. Due to what the newspaper called "unprecedented demand", the voucher-redeemed scheme was extended to twenty episodes, with the remaining six and a presentation pack available for purchase via mail order. The promotion gave the newspaper a circulation boost of 2.8 million copies.