Given everything that’s going on in the world, I think it’s important to re-familiarise ourselves with history. I highly recommend watching all of the following.
“That which has happened is a warning. To forget it is guilt. It must be continually remembered. It was possible for this to happen, and it remains possible for it to happen again at any minute. Only in knowledge can it be prevented.” Karl Jaspers
The World at War is a 26 hour documentary about the Second World War. It is still a groundbreaking documentary, originally aired in 1973. It contains extensive interviews with people who witnessed or experienced many of the events in the war. It is narrated by Laurence Olivier and the opening credits are, in a word, haunting.
The Nazis: A Warning From History is both a dark and amazing documentary. It comes in 6 parts, at 45 minutes each. It charts the rise of the Nazis from the early 1920s to their ultimate demise. It is in many parts shocking – it contains interviews with perpetrators of mass killings, or people who betrayed their neighbours to the Gestapo. The interviews and file footage are harrowing. In a way, the series lulls you into a sense of comfort in the early episodes, and then punches you in the face in later ones. It also goes into some detail about the sheer disorganisation of the Hitler regime, and how the bureaucracy operated (or failed to operate) under him. Here is part 1, the rest should be available online.
Next is the Death of Yugoslavia (1995). It describes how a country can quickly disintegrate and draw lines around ethnicity. It was so well written and produced, and the interviews so exclusive, they it was partly used as evidence during the prosecution of war crimes. If you’ve never understood the war in the 1990s in Yugoslavia, this is where you start.
There’s lots more, but these are a good place to start. I’d also recommend American History X and Schindler’s List on the movie side.