In the ninth part of Band of Brothers, Easy Company makes a horrifying discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Band of Brothers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of war, the Holocaust, genocide, concentration camps, anti-Semitism, body horror, and Nazis/Nazism.
I suppose it goes without saying that this was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen for a Mark Watches project, but there it is. There’s no question in my mind that I’ve never sat through a more horrifying and upsetting thing ever.
(And for what it’s worth, I understand if absolutely no one buys the video for this episode. It’s not going to hurt my feelings. I feel very strange about the concept in and of itself, and I think the person who commissioned this probably should have thought twice about it or maybe warned me in some way. Regardless! I appreciate the support and the desire to see me complete things. It’s done, I’m okay publishing it because of that, and you are of course welcome to purchase it and watch it. It’s not a pretty thing, and I don’t say much of anything at all for the second half of “Why We Fight” aside from scattered curses.)
I have a few notable things to say, but I kind of think that my take on this is largely pointless. It’s an experience I don’t share, and I don’t want to do this a disservice. That being said! I think the framing of “Why We Fight” is odd, and I’m curious to know how others feel about this. The episode presents us with Easy Company’s frustrations as the war slowly peters out. The company is more “comfortable” than they’ve ever been; they face very little resistance anywhere; the Germans are surrendering in droves; and the soldiers who have been fighting since D-Day are tired.
We follow Nixon for the most part, but even when the story deviates to focus on Perconte, they both are on the same page. They are far from home, their lives are irrevocably changed, and they don’t even know what they’re doing in Europe anymore. Some ache for action in Berlin, and others just want everything to be over with. So, are we meant to assume that the discovery of the concentration camp is a reminder of why these men fight? Because… that’s not factually accurate by a longshot. The United States didn’t truly get involved in World War II until after we were attacked, and we didn’t fight against Germany until Germany allied with Japan. But even then, this episode demonstrates (factually) that the soldiers didn’t even know what concentration camps were. It’s not like the U.S. went to war to end Nazism and liberate the camps, so I feel weird about the deliberate framing of this story by that caption at the end. This isn’t really why we got involved in World War II, was it?
Still, I don’t want to deny or diminish the actual story told because it is so important to understand how these soldiers came across the camps and liberated them. It’s important to see the Nazis’ Final Solution spelled out to us in horrifying detail. This is what happened. And it’s important that the episode makes distinctions between Germans and Nazis and examines the complicity of some Germans over others. In particular, there are those two brutal scenes between Nixon and the wife of an S.S. officer, both of which are silent damnations of what her husband supported and what she supported in some way, too. Again, the framing of “Why We Fight” limits our view of things, and for the most part, we spend time in the immediacy of the moment, watching as the men of Easy Company discover just how disturbing and horrifying this camp was. What about the Germans in that town? How many of them suspected anything? How many of them saw the trains heading to these camps, only to return empty?
I suppose I don’t know what to say about that. The level of detail here is astonishing, but again, I think it needed to be, at least if the focus of this episode was going to be on the discovery of this concentration camp. (I’m guessing that based on the location, this was near Dachau? Or was Dachau? It’s never named in the episode itself.) It was awful to watch, plain and simple. I couldn’t deal with all the bodies, with the piles of corpses, some burnt, some rotting away. I think it’s weird to say that the show did a great job because the subject matter is so revolting, but I have to repeat myself: It’s supposed to be revolting and upsetting and horrifying. It had to be ceaselessly uncomfortable.
This isn’t a definitive depiction, obviously, and there is so much more information out there on the Holocaust, its causes, and the history of it. I don’t want to be the source of any information whatsoever, and it’s why this review is brief. I really shouldn’t talk about this, yeah, but I also don’t want to. This was rough, to say the least, and I think it’s best if I just move on to the finale.
The video for “Why We Fight” can be purchased here for $0.99.
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