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How sex, jazz and 'fake news' were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio…
 
Hear how the BBC reported the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6th 1944. The operation was a crucial step in the liberation of western Europe. Using original BBC reports from the time - from Chester Wilmot, Richard Dimbleby, Robin Duff, Ward Smith and Alan Melville - we tell the story of D-Day.Photo: D-Day Landings: US troops in an L…
 
Eyewitness accounts of the Allied landings on the coast of Normandy during World War Two on 6 June 1944. The massive operation was a crucial step in the liberation of western Europe from years of Nazi rule and the defeat of Hitler's Germany. In this episode, we present the accounts of veterans held in the BBC archive. Photo: The photo titled "The J…
 
Indian classical music is an art form that’s been in the making for thousands of years and has exponentially grown in popularity, seeing a 70% increase in people taking exams in the UK alone. First mentioned in its simplest form in the Hindu scriptures known as the vedas, some 3,500 years ago, we tell the story of how the music has educated and lib…
 
In 1927 Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein created Ol’ Man River to bind their breakthrough Broadway musical Show Boat. Giving it an almighty showstopper. Audiences were carried away as ‘Joe’, the ordinary black labourer, took centre stage to sing of toil and suffering in the land of cotton along the banks of the Mississippi. From the beginning it t…
 
Japanese troops reached the Chinese city of Nanjing in December 1937. The violence that followed marked one of the darkest moments in a struggle that continued throughout WW2. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to former General Huang Shih Chung, who survived the slaughter in Nanjing as a boy and then fought in China's war of resistance against the Ja…
 
At the end of WW2 much of Germany's capital had been destroyed by bombing and artillery. Almost half of all houses and flats had been damaged and a million Berliners were homeless. Caroline Wyatt has been speaking to Helga Cent-Velden, one of the women tasked with helping clear the rubble to make the city habitable again.Photo: Women in post-war Be…
 
Thousands of Allied troops parachuted into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in September 1944. At that point, it was the most ambitious Allied airborne offensive of World War Two. British, American and Polish troops were dropped behind German lines in an attempt to capture a series of bridges on the Dutch/German border.Mike Lanchin has spoken to Hetty…
 
Aretha Franklin, for fifty years the Queen of Soul, with a voice of unique quality and who suffered a difficult and troubled life, has died at the age of 76. Jumoke Fashola hears from musicians, fans and producers from different parts of the world about what made Aretha Franklin’s music special. It Includes contributions from South African singer L…
 
Peruvian-born chef and record producer Martin Morales heads back to his homeland to explore the inherent link between food and music in Andean culture. Martin starts his journey at the famous La Chomba restaurant in Cusco, where musicians queue to serenade the diners, and then heads to the tiny village of Lamay where the local delicacy is guinea pi…
 
Due to the political climate in Soviet Russia of the day, Yevgeny Murzin was forced to build his synthesizer in secret with little access to electronic parts. Over next two decades (pre and post war), the ANS as it was known, was a self-financed, largely secret labour of love; Murzin had to work on it in his spare time over two decades with help fr…
 
Known as the Queen of Soul, voice artists have been in awe of Aretha Franklin for 50 years. In Aretha at 75 Mark Coles talks to musicians, fans and producers from different parts of the world about what makes her so special.Including contributions from South African singer Lira, American musician Valerie June, record company mogul Clive Davis, prod…
 
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 speakin…
 
Ancient history was not silent, so why is our study of it? The oldest-known musical instruments – bone flutes found in southern Germany – date back a little over 40,000 years. But how long humans have been making music in one form or another is a matter of great speculation. What did ‘music’ mean in the context of our Palaeolithic and Neolithic for…
 
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 d…
 
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…
 
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 La…
 
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 A…
 
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 n…
 
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. C…
 
Gabriela Montero, the exhilarating Venezuelan pianist, is playing in Miami. She is renowned for her live improvisations, a form of classical music that is rarely heard in concert halls today. Her spontaneous compositions on stage are inspired by musical motifs, sung or hummed to her by a member of the audience, often drawn from the classical repert…
 
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 Wars…
 
What makes the sweet rhythmical music of a Caribbean island so appealing to young people in the eastern European country of Poland? How did a reggae singer with dreadlocks come to win the TV show Poland's Got Talent? And why is Poland one of the biggest markets for reggae music in the world? Bob Marley's biographer Chris Salewicz reports from the a…
 
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…
 
Legendary country singer-songwriter Steve Earle unveils the secrets of composing a great song. Every year he runs a four-day intensive training session in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Journalist and aspiring songwriter Hugh Levinson joined around 100 other would-be balladeers to see what they can learn from Steve and his fellow teach…
 
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 speak…
 
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 Newma…
 
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 sp…
 
Gemma Cairney reports on attempts to keep musical traditions alive on both Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. In Guadeloupe – much of the music is driven by a belief in “you have to know where you come from to know where you’re going” and many young people are rediscovering their Creole music and language as a result. Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, they have c…
 
Music from all over the Caribbean is gaining international recognition as it increasingly draws on influences from all around the world. In this first programme, Gemma Cairney looks at the new sounds of Soca in Trinidad and Barbados, which is a blend of both African and Trinidadian rhythms. It includes interviews with Bajan Soca queen Alison Hinds;…
 
A symphony for Syria is the story of how 50 Syrian musicians beat the odds to find their way to Holland to perform together. The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians first played with British songwriter Damon Albarn in 2008. Since then, a civil war has divided their country and forced many to rethink many aspects of their lives. Some have decided to live …
 
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 g…
 
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 Presid…
 
Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, two Liverpool musicians collectively known as Sodajerker, quiz musicians on everything from the instruments they use and where they write to whether they thrive under deadline pressure. Their stellar list of interviewees includes Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (who have written dozens of hits, including You’ve Lost tha…
 
Asad Ali Chaudhry explores music of the world that unites fans, including Pakistani folk singer Bali Jatti, whose music is inspired by Indian culture, Cypriot folk music shared by Greeks and Turks, and a Russian folk metal band with a strong Finnish influence.BBC World Service
 
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…
 
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)…
 
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 …
 
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 R…
 
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 …
 
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 bom…
 
In 1943, the cellist, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She expected to be killed in the gas chambers, but survived because she was recruited to play in an orchestra set up by the women prisoners. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch talks to Witness about her experience and the power of music in the darkest moments in history…
 
In the early hours of 19th August 1942, a convoy of Allied ships approached the port of Dieppe carrying more than 6,000 troops. The mainly Canadian force was supposed to carry out a hit and run raid that would help the Allies learn and plan for the real invasion of occupied France later in the war. But almost immediately things started to go wrong.…
 
On 1 August 1944, the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation of Poland began. Hundreds of thousands of people died during the fighting and Poland's capital was almost completely destroyed. Among the underground fighters were children, many of them members of the Scout movement. Andrzej Slawinsky was one of them.(Photo: Insurgents on the street…
 
In the 1930s Hitler began to rebuild Germany's armed forces. When WW1 ended Germany had been banned from having an air force under the Treaty of Versailles. Hear from Eric 'Winkle' Brown who as a very young man was invited to see the new planes and helicopters that had been developed for the Luftwaffe. He later went on to become a flying ace in Bri…
 
In June 1944 the International Red Cross was allowed by the Nazis into the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The Nazis tried to use the visit to project a positive image of their treatment of the Jews. Hear from Ela Weissberger, who was an 11-year-old prisoner in the camp.(Audio archive courtesy of The National Centre for Jewish Film at Brandeis U…
 
The Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann recorded hours of interview about his involvement in the Holocaust, before his capture in 1960 by Israeli agents. Witness talks to the daughter of the Dutch journalist, Willem Sassen, who recorded the Eichmann interviews in Argentina. Saskia Sassen talks about the tapes, her memories of their secret visitor and …
 
On 8 May 1945, hundreds of thousands of Londoners took to the streets to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe. BBC correspondents captured the scenes of joy across the city - from the East End to Piccadilly Circus. This special programme is a compilation of BBC reports from VE Day.PHOTO: Londoners dancing on VE Day (Getty Images)…
 
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