Saturday Matinee 2017 10: Die Frontschau (German: 1941-42)

This is a collection of nine short training films, remastered on DVD by International Historic Films, your go-to guys for Nazi propaganda of all kinds.

Die Frontschau (English translation? We have faith in your intellect to figure it out) was a Wehrmacht term for films made for the education of replacement units and troops. This disc contains nine separate short films. They are:

  1. Mountain Troops Battle for a Town, classic light infantry combat.
  2. Advance, movement in front and rear areas, on foot and in motorized convoy.
  3. Russian Construction of Fighting Positions, including some interesting bunkers and some very clever tank traps designed to capture the tanks’ treads in pits where they’d have no traction, with the tank high-centered in between.
  4. Infantry on the Attack, walks through a typical small unit attack on a defended position.
  5. Construction of Positions and Shelters, this is from the German side. Amusing praise of the new wonder material: plywood.
  6. Attack by Infantry and Armor on a town, pretty much what it describes
  7. Crossing Ice Surfaces, and Watercourses with Drifting Ice, this gives you a sense of the difficulties of keeping lines of communications open on the Russian Front.
  8. Defensive Battle in Winter, light infantry action in the snows around Leningrad.
  9. Terrain Difficulties in the East, Winter and Spring, another unflinching look at “Russia’s greatest general” and its effects on the Wehrmacht. 

The disc announces that it is remastered and improved. We’ll have more on that claim below.

It does have an English language narrative (an accurately translated one), audio superimposed over the original German soundtrack. You can select either track. The DVD is Region 0 (i.e. it will play anywhere in the world).

The material is all interesting and sometimes unexpected. It brings home just how dependent the German logistics were on railways and animal-drawn transport, and how those were, in turn, dependent on human minds and muscles to maintain and repair ways, and to drive animals. For all the noise made about Blitzkrieg, the American, British, and Red Armies were all much more motorized than their German opponents.

Acting and Production

There is no acting per se; it’s just German soldiers doing their thing for the combat cameramen of the Propagandakompanien, along with some images of Soviet troops from captured Russian combat camera footage.

The original videos were well scripted, narrated, and edited with an unobtrusive but excellent sound track. As they were meant for East-bound soldiers, they’re far from a happy-face propaganda look at the war, and they evidence a considerable respect for Ivan as a well-led, bold and tenacious fighting man.

The quality of the reproduction is not that great. It is all formatted to television aspect ratio, suggesting that this is a remastered VHS product. It is definitely very far from first-generation video, and as a result it’s grainy. But it is generally well shot and well focused, and that’s something.

The DVD mastering on our sample was good (not always our experience with IHF) and the menus worked.

Accuracy and Weapons

Naturally, this real-world documentary video shows real-world weapons firing live ammunition. Some of these are really worthwhile. For example, you get a good look at German engineers dealing with ice around bridges and railway trestles. They blow it in place to prevent damage to the bridge.

Every imaginable kind of Wehrmacht weapon and vehicle seems to have a cameo in the field, like this platoon leader with an MP.40:

But this company commander is using a captured Tokarev SVT 1940 rifle:

The Soviets are well represented, with rifles….

… the popular DP light machine gun…

 

… and Soviet light tanks.

And then there are some images that just surprise you, like the scenes of Germans sailing ice boats on frozen lakes and rivers, and using reindeer as pack animals.

 

We found the engineering aspects most interesting, as the Germans and Russians built, assaulted and defended positions very differently.

The difficulties of operating in the great expanses of Russia are made very clear. You might not need to be insane to attack this place, but with Hitler and Napoleon, Western Europe is 0 for 2.

The bottom line

This is a time capsule of information meant for internal use by the then-victorious German Army in Russia. Anyone interested in how things were done on the Eastern Front in the early years, or looking for hints as to why this one got away from the Germans, would probably enjoy it.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page:

https://www.amazon.com/Frontschau-Front-Show-Deluxe-Restored/dp/B0027U57H2/

It’s actually a couple bucks less direct from IHF:

http://ihffilm.com/22900.html

 

  • IMDB page (they describe it erroneously as “propaganda newsreels”. It’s actually training films, and it’s pretty unstinting in its depiction of the difficulties awaiting Germans im Osten):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2457530/

  • IMFDB page (none):
  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (none):
  • Infogalactic  page: (none)
  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (n/a).

9 thoughts on “Saturday Matinee 2017 10: Die Frontschau (German: 1941-42)

  1. Keith

    The Soviets were not really motorized till they got some 600,000 wheeled vehicles via Lend Lease. That really built enough to matter by mid 1943. Past that they rode to Berlin in Studebaker’s and eating Spam.

    If the ex had not stolen the DVD player and the 32″ flat screen TV I’d get that because it’s looks interesting.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

    1. LSWCHP

      Speaking from bitter experience I’ll concur that Ex’s will do that to you. Not to mention your retirement savings etc.

      For those poor impoverished ex-ridden bastards among us, these appear to be on youtube, albeit in the original German.

  2. C Otto

    Funny thing about watching these old documentaries…and slightly off-topic, I was watching the Einstazgruppen documentary on Netflix earlier this week when I saw something interesting. It appeared in some of the clips, the the Lithuanian (?) soldiers where using what appeared to be P14/M1917 issued rifles, which I found curious. But it is fun watching some of these old docs, cause there is almost always something that makes you stop, and go “wtf?” and then doing a rewind and going “wow…wtf!”

      1. Hognose Post author

        Great page on Lithuanian arms. The czech-language source he can’t ID is probably the three-volume history of ZB published around 1970, a decent work of history, at least as it applies to the interwar period. There is the occasional line of marxist-leninist claptrap that has the feel of an editor inject, but the authors are clearly working from intact and primary archives.

  3. Bart Noir

    Can it be that those were not German troops with the reindeer? By this I mean that the Finns used a lot of German gear and weapons in their war with the Soviets, and who better to use reindeer than the Finns?

    Bart Noir

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s there in the German training film. They actually show how to use sand or straw so that your reindeer and other draft animals don’t slip on smooth ice.

  4. HORSE GUNNER

    COMMENT: RECOMMENDED ACCOMPANYING READING: In the 1950’s, the Army Center for Military History published the “German Report Series”: basically, “After Action Reports” written by German PWs in 1945/46.
    Most of them deal with the Eastern Front. Many are available, in PDF Format, on-line.
    Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA PAM) 20-201 (Aug51), “Military Improvisations During The Russian Campaign”, written by a German GEN and former Army Commander, is utterly fascinating. Once one starts reading, one cannot stop! The German Engineers were phenomenal.
    QUESTION: Why were the Germans, seemingly, “surprised” by the Climate and Terrain of Russia?
    The Germans had fought–and defeated–the Tsarist, and, later Bolshovist/Communist Forces in WWI.
    The Communists surrendered to the Germans at Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918. This enabled the Germans to re-deploy their entire Forces to the Western Front, to France; and, also enabled the Austro-Hungarians to re-deploy their entire Forces to the Italian Front.
    In Europe, I have never been further North and East than Berlin, but is Western Russia really, really that much colder than Germany?

    1. Haxo Angmark

      as far as I know, the Winters of 1939-40, 1940-41, and 1941-42 were unusually awful all over northern Europe, and super-awful in European Russia, a semi-arctic country anyway. Remember, Central and Western Europe are somewhat sheltered by the Baltic Sea. Russia, not.

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