Our journey through World War I and World War II continues with Secrets of Hitler’s Island Fortress. The Islands of Guernsey were the only part of the British Isles that was invaded by Hitler. In this documentary, historian Dan Snow talks with the residents of the Channel Islands to discover their unique wartime experience. Snow also visits sites that the Nazis build to protect their prize. This documentary is a fascinating tale about World War II.
The Guernsey Islands may be small, but they played a big part in history as well as in World War II. They may be subjects to the British Crown, but they are run by independent governments. Hitler built a fortress on the islands to keep an eye on potential invasions. Dan Snow visits a castle that was a key to controlling Guernsey. The castle changed hands plenty of times during history. The German occupation of Guernsey left a lasting mark on the island.
The Germans quickly realized that it was a strategic point and set to fortifying the island. It was the only piece of British territory that the Nazis occupied. Hitler was proud of that fact. When the Nazis arrived, they quickly realized that the fortification was built to last for the ages. So, the Nazis reinforced what was available. Dan Snow puts it that it is one of the few places where you can spot something built by King Henry VIII alongside World War II fortifications.
Now, a group of local enthusiasts is working to preserve what remains of the Island Fortress. They plan on making them available to the public. Shaun Marsh is head of the Festung Guernsey group and takes Dan Snow on a tour of the remaining fortifications. As a child, he played in the tunnels, now as an adult, he is working to preserve those same structures. Snow asks Marsh if the group will find additional archeology from World War II, and Marsh believes they will continue to make finds. Marsh says that the group will not stop digging.
Snow then interviews Molly Bihet, who survived the German occupation. She was almost 9 when the Germans came through. Bihet remembers feeling panicky and crushed by the German occupation. The people cried when the Germans came on the Island. Her mother was afraid for the future. The family stayed to look after Molly’s grandfather, so they stayed together. Roy Domaille was only six years old when the Germans came. He thought it was a big adventure for him, but a terrible time for their parents. The youngster did not care. Diana Chesney was on holiday at the time and she picked up apprehension from her mother. The Germans were nice to the children. The interviews with residents were fascinating.
Richard Heamue shows Dan Snow the museum of the German Occupation. He shares with Snow a sketchbook that very few have seen. A German officer was having an affair with a local girl. They eventually got married and settled in Guernsey after the war. This was a surprising look at how some of the Germans interacted with the locals. It gives a different look at how the Germans behaved during World War II. The Germans felt like they were on holiday when they occupied Guernsey. After the war, they came back to Guernsey and married local girls.
This would be an excellent documentary for a substitute teacher to show when the class is studying World War II. Even if there is not a substitute teacher in the classroom, you can show this in a world history class. You can also share this with an independent study student as well. You could also show clips from this documentary in an English class to learn about the interview process. Teachers, you are only limited by your imagination as to how to use these documentaries in the classroom.
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