The Climbers of LeningradWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Mountaineers risked their lives to camouflage churches and palaces in the great Russian city during World War Two. The city was besieged by the Germans and under bombardment. The climbers used paint and canvas to conceal the landmarks from enemy attack. Mikhail Bobrov was just 18 years old when first got sent up the city's spires. He's been speaking to Monica Whitlock about his wartime experiences.
Photo: A climber suspended from a spire in Leningrad. Credit: Tass/PA.
The Fake IDs That Saved Jewish LivesWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Soon after Hitler ordered the invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the Nazis began rounding up hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Most were immediately sent to their deaths in the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. David Gur was a member of the Jewish Hungarian underground, who helped produce tens of thousands of forged identification documents. These allowed Jews to hide their true identities and escape deportation to the death camps. Now 91 years old, David has been telling Mike Lanchin about his part in one of the largest rescue operations organised by Jews during the Holocaust.
Photo: False Hungarian ID document (BBC)
Saving Italy's Art During WW2Witness: World War 2 Collection add
Italy's great works of art were threatened by bombing and looting during World War Two. But a plan known as 'Operation Rescue' was devised to keep the paintings and sculptures safe. Some were hidden in remote spots, others were moved to the Vatican. Pasquale Rotondi was a leading figure in the operation, his daughter Giovanna Rotondi spoke to Alice Gioia about his wartime work.
Photo: St George by Andrea Mantegna, circa 1460.(Credit DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Britain's Land GirlsWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Around 80 thousand women and girls volunteered to join the Women's Land Army during the Second World War. They helped provide vital food supplies to a country under siege. Kirsty Reid has spoken to Mona McLeod who was just 17 years old when she started working 6 days a week on a farm in Scotland. Mona has written a book about her experiences: 'A Land Girl's Tale'.
Photo: Land girls carrying bundles of straw in 1941. (Credit: Maeers/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Frankfurt Auschwitz TrialsWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Hear from one of the German prosecution lawyers who helped put Nazi war criminals on trial 20 years after World War Two had ended. Gerhard Wiese has been speaking to Lucy Burns about the trial, and about visiting the Auschwitz death camp with other members of the court.
Photo: Members of the Frankfurt court and several journalists pass through the Auschwitz camp gate with the words "Arbeit macht frei" (work brings freedom) above them. December 14,1964. Credit: Press Association.
The Sinking of the LancastriaWitness: World War 2 Collection add
On 17 June 1940, a packed British troopship was sunk off the coast of France by German bombers. The ship had just picked up thousands of British military personnel left behind in France after the evacuation of the army at Dunkirk. It's believed around 5,000 people lost their lives. It was one of the worst maritime disasters in British history and news of the sinking was initially supressed in Britain. Alex Last spoke to 99-year-old Ernest Beesley, a sapper in the Royal Engineers, who is among the last survivors of the Lancastria.
Photo: The Lancastria after being hit by German bombers off the coast of France in 1940 (Lancastria Association of Scotland)
The Roma Victims of the HolocaustWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In 1942, the fascist government of Romania deported 25,000 of its Roma citizens to the former Soviet territory of Transdniestria. Half of them died of hunger and disease. Dina Newman spoke to one Roma Gypsy man who was five years old when he was sent to Transdniestria with his family.
Photo: Nomadic Roma in Bucharest, Romania, outside their tent. Circa 1930. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
The Katyn MassacreWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Tens of thousands of Polish officers were secretly executed in the USSR during World War 2. The German occupying forces reported the first mass grave, in the village of Katyn in 1943, but Moscow only admitted to the killings in 1990. Dina Newman speaks to the son of one of the murdered officers, Waclaw Gasiorowski. Photo: Gasiorowski family in Warsaw in 1936. Credit: family archive.
The Germans Occupy PragueWitness: World War 2 Collection add
On March 15th 1939, the German army occupied Czechoslovakia. Witness hears the story of one young boy who watched the German troops march into Prague and who later escaped on the Kindertransport. These were trains that brought thousands of mostly Jewish children out of Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia, without their parents, to safety in Britain. That young boy went on to become a British MP and today sits in Britain's House of Lords; Alf Dubs tells Louise Hidalgo his story.
Picture: German troops enter the centre of Prague on 15th March 1939; the German leader Adolf Hitler visited the city the next day. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Sara Ginaite Lithuanian Jewish PartisanWitness: World War 2 Collection add
During World War Two, a young Jewish woman, Sara Ginaite, escaped from the Kaunas Ghetto in Lithuania to fight the Nazis, With her husband Misha, she joined a detachment of communist-led partisans in the Rudnicki forest . They took part in the liberation of Vilnius, where she was famously photographed by a Soviet officer. Now in her 90s, Sara speaks to Witness.
Photo: Sara Ginaite, a Jewish Lithuanian partisan , during the liberation of Vilnius, 1944. (USHMM)
Soviet Woman Bomber PilotWitness: World War 2 Collection add
Yelena Malyutina was a Soviet female bomber pilot who fought in WW2 and was wounded in action in 1944. She was in one of the three Soviet women's flying regiments which fought on the front line. Before her death in 2014, she was interviewed by Lyuba Vinogradova, author of 'Defending the Motherland: Soviet Women' who fought Hitler's Aces. Dina Newman reports.
Photo:Yelena Malyutina and Lyuba Vinogradova (credit: private archive)
Italy's Partisan FightersWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In September 1943, Partisan fighters in Italy began organising in large numbers to help the Allies defeat Nazi Germany and rid their country of the remnants of Benito Mussolini's fascist state. As World War Two drew to a close, there was vicious fighting in many villages between the Partisans and Italians still loyal to the dictator. Alice Gioia speaks to a brother and sister who both took part in the Partisan struggle.
PHOTO: Italian Partisans celebrating victory, May 1945 (personal collection)
The Fall of ParisWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In June 1940, German forces, having swept across Belgium and Holland, and into France, were closing in on Paris. In the face of the German army, millions of French, Dutch and Belgians had taken to the roads in one of the biggest exoduses of people the world had ever seen. Witness talks to Daphne Wall, who lived in Paris in 1940 as a young English girl and whose family joined the exodus south as Paris fell.
Photograph: the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler visits the Eiffel Tower following the occupation of Paris by the German army on the 14th June 1940 (Credit: Harwood/Keystone/Getty Images)
The Imaginary War HeroesWitness: World War 2 Collection add
During World War Two, Soviet propaganda promoted a heroic feat that never happened. It was the story of a small ill-equipped unit who destroyed over a dozen German tanks, delaying the German advance on Moscow. But it's unlikely that they destroyed a single tank, despite being widely promoted as heroes, during and after the war.
Photo: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev walks near World War Two veterans at a wreath-laying ceremony in Dubosekovo on May 7, 2010 during a visit to a memorial to the 28 Panfilov heroes. Credit: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images.
The Death of General PattonWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In December 1945, one of America's most famous miltary commanders, General George S Patton, died from injuries sustained in a car crash, just months after the end of the Second World War. Witness talks to his grandson, George Patton Waters, about his memories of this colourful and often unorthodox man.
Photo: General George Patton in Paris in August 1945 to celebrate the first anniversary of the city's liberation. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Surviving Pearl HarborWitness: World War 2 Collection add
On 7 December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. Thousands of American servicemen died in a raid which brought their country into World War Two. Former Navy mechanic, Adolph Kuhn, tells Witness how he survived.
(Photo: The USS Arizona sinking at Pearl Harbor. Credit: Getty Images)
The Bari Raid 1943Witness: World War 2 Collection add
How a devastating air raid on the Italian port of Bari during World War Two led to the deadly release of mustard gas. Winston Churchill ordered the incident to be kept secret for years. We hear from Peter Bickmore BEM, who was injured during the raid.
(Photo: Seventeen Allied ships go up in flames in Bari, Italy, after a raid by German bombers on 2 December 1943. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)
Surviving RavensbruckWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In November 1938, the SS commander Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction in Nazi Germany of the only concentration camp built specifically for women. It would be called Ravensbruck. Selma van der Perre tells Witness about the horrors of life in Ravensbruck, including experiments on women and children, and how she survived.
Photograph: women at Ravensbruck concentration camp (Credit: Das Bundesarchiv)
The Battle of El AlameinWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In October and November 1942, the Allies fought a famous battle against German and Italian troops close to the small Egyptian village of El Alamein.
General Bernard Montgomery, the British commander, knew that victory was crucial. But his offensive was in danger of stalling almost as soon as it began.
Witness speaks to Len Burritt who was then a 24 year old wireless operator with the British Seventh Armoured Division.
(Photo: A German tank is knocked out and British troops rush up with fixed bayonets to capture the German crew at the Battle of El Alamein. Credit: Getty Images)
The Leningrad SymphonyWitness: World War 2 Collection add
In an act of defiance during World War Two, starving musicians in the besieged city of Leningrad performed Shostakovich's new Seventh Symphony. The piece was composed especially for the city, which had been cut off and surrounded by invading Nazi troops. During the siege an estimated one million civilians died from starvation, exposure, and the bombardment by German forces. Hear archive recordings of Ksenia Matus who played the oboe in the orchestra, and hear from Sarah Quigley, the author of a novel about Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony. Dina Newman reports.
(Photo: Official Soviet picture of Dmitri Shostakovich working on his famous Seventh ("Leningrad") Symphony. AFP/Getty Images)