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Thousands of soldiers were killed in the last battles of World War II. US troops who fought in the Hürtgen Forest nicknamed it the “Death Factory.” This documentary features original film from US archives that bring the battle back to life.
It’s estimated that as many as 30 thousand US and German soldiers were killed in fighting in the northern Eifel region of Germany in the autumn and winter of 1944 and 1945. Traces of the battle – old bunkers, munitions, trenches and tank tracks – are still visible even today. The scarred landscape bears witness to a little-known chapter of World War Two. The “Hürtgen Forest” was the last obstacle standing between US forces and the Rhine River and Ruhr. Yet the decision to advance into the thick forest in September 1944 proved to be a fatal mistake. The Americans completely miscalculated North Eifel region’s rugged terrain. They became disoriented in an area the German forces, the Wehrmacht, had crisscrossed with trenches and peppered with anti-personnel mines, making the wood into a veritable fortress. Continual rain and fog, followed by snow and frigid temperatures, turned the battle into a scene of dystopian butchery. Author Ernest Hemingway spent 18 days on the front in the Hürtgen Forest. He wrote later, “It was a place where it was extremely difficult for a man to stay alive even if all he did was be there.”
This documentary reconstructs the stages of the battle using commentary from survivors of the clash. Among them are the well-known US photographer Tony Vaccaro, US Army veteran James K. Cullen and former Wehrmacht soldier Paul Verbeek. In addition, Hürtgen Forest residents tell of the legacy of the battle, including the threat posed by countless unexploded munitions left in the ground 75 years after the conflict in Europe ended.