Hürtgen forest and the end of World War II | DW Documentary



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.

31 comments

  1. I love what Mr. Vaccaro said at the end, "We are all human.. " Amen, brother RIP 🙏 and thank you for your service, never forgotten Mr. Vaccaro.

  2. People comments suggest this video shows both sides. Where was the German side – I saw only American soldiers.
    Germans themselves have this problem. As the loser of WW2 they have decided to treat their own soldiers not with respect and gratitude, (as the Americans treat their soldiers) but as enemies, blindly accepting and happily adding to the winners (allies) propaganda. The German soldier, who bravely fought the rest of the western world is shamefully dishonoured in his own country. Modern Germany does not respect itself and has never regained respect in the world. And they do not deserve it either.

  3. 10.58 "A televised address…?" perhaps Goebbels made a "Broadcast address" instead.
    The only nitpick I could come up with. Great doco.

  4. US So-called Generals ,, didn't know anything of Year 9 C.E….. about Varus Legions in order of two or three men all along Teutoburg large Forest and Definitely defeated with NO SURVIVOR by Arminius and his Cheruskes and other tribes…
    Go through the middle wild Hürtgen forest with Tanks was an idiocy of stubborn idiots…I say it clear!

  5. 41:45 Tony Vaccaro] "We're all humans on this beautiful paradise that is our Earth. Beautiful!" The sad irony is that Mr. Vaccaro could never have said that with such deep understanding as an eighteen year old in 1943, It was only having survived the trial and tribulations of war that he could appreciate that deep spiritual truth. Even children, they lie, they cheat, they steal, they bully, they fight amongst themselves and no one has to teach them how, those are the natural failure modes of human consciousness and human character – every generation rediscovers them.

  6. Oh no 🙄, Germans are annoyed that Americans go there to the forest for whatever reason they chose to make the trek? Tragic. The rest of the world was "annoyed " we had to lose fathers, brothers, sons, friends to go stop the madness that Germany caused. Maybe they lost members of their family there. No one cares that you're annoyed.

  7. Had Herr Fuhrer listened to Field Marshall Romel on hitting the retreating forces on the beaches of Normandy, then Deutschland would have won the war. May the Krauts remember the lessons of history past and not repeat them.

  8. The Misfits wrote a song about this place and then some other band names Metillica or something like that covered it.

  9. There never seems to be ideal weather for places of war. I fought in Vietnam. I feel sorry for those who had to fight during cold winter conditions. It must have been terrible. What a waste. When I watch the invasion of Normandy I get sick of the slaughter as those young kids come off the landing craft. I would have flanked the Germans. We could have bombed them to the point of surrender. Just keep pounding and pounding them. Chip away. I always notice the US Army Generals watching the slaughter from the bridge of ships. Then go off and have coffee.

  10. ."That was the actual moment you realized there were other people nearby who were shooting at you." No shit, Paul. Your people were 70 million strong and tried to take over a world that had billons of people. F you think was gunna happen? When I look at a chart of the population of Germany, I see very minor dips around WW1 and WW2. I realize that we don't punish the starters of wars severely enough (or we didn't.) I think it's disgusting that Russia lost far more people than Japan or Germany. Damn shameful. The people of both of these countries got off far too easily.

  11. Remarkable is, that the number of victims of WWII with 70 Millions does not show a significant deviation of the growing Worldpopulation- Curve from its exponential direction: 1920 TWO billions, 1970 FOUR billions, 2020 EIGHT billions, 2070 SIXTEEN billions…..70 Millions are just ONE percent of 7 billions…..Mankind is REPRODUCING ITSELF LIKE RABBITS…..Is THIS really BEAUTIFUL ?

  12. I find it a Shameful fact that today's American citizens generally know nothing about WW II and the heroic Americans who fought to save the World and those who survived built America.

  13. The battle of Hurtgen forest was a needless slaughter of American soldiers. There was 0 need to attack for slaughter. It was eazy to go around and let the Germans wither on the vine.

  14. Magnificent production, beautifully told. But I don't see a credit for the woman who does the voiceover. She is exceptionally good, including her pronunciation of non-English names. Who is she? She deserves credit.

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