The You Tube Generation…

Finally, after many years Tomahawk Films have been dragged kicking & screaming into the on-line world of Facebook and You Tube, courtesy of a small video, (kindly bolted together by our colleague Craig who helps us out with on-line technology), which showcases some of our stunning Third Reich-era musiker images… but more importantly are set over an exciting 8-track medley of digitally re-mastered Third Reich-era schellack 78rpm records that are available to the collector & motion-picture & TV producers on CD from our Third Reich-era German Archive here in the UK.

For a while now we have been using this evocative sound-track medley on our Tomahawk Films’ website as a useful marketing tool though which pending customers, who maybe unaware of the broadcast studio-quality of our re-mastered recordings, could get a ‘taster’ of our audio output, before putting their hand in their pockets and handing over their hard-earned cash..!

As producer, I admit I’d withstood this technical development for a long while as, way back when, with the varying quality of people’s audio-playback on their computers, there seemed little point in us spending a small fortune at Dubmaster Studios in Hampshire re-mastering our albums and getting the very best digital quality that we could from these wonderful 70-year old schellack 78rpm records, only to then find that somebody was playing back our medley through a computer with ’tinny speakers’ and so neatly undoing all our hard work in the studio in a trice!

However computer speakers & audio play-back has, happily, advanced in leaps & bounds and my own office computer is testament to that with high-grade speakers and a ‘boom box’ under the desk, (ooh, get me!), which plays back all my computer- stored tracks in superb high-definition, bass-led quality that is almost better than my personal hi-fi at home;  so now seemed the right time that we venture into the You Tube world. Besides with so many people out there merely putting up our copyrighted tracks & images on You Tube without asking our permission, we are now working on the theory of ‘if you can beat ‘em, join ‘em’… so it will be interesting to see how many people do now actually find our new You Tube page and give the 8 tracks on there a spin.. and then, if we are lucky, place an order!

Many of you successfully locating that page will actually find some of the tracks quite familiar as these form the basis of the most popular tracks that the movie & television production companies ask our Archive for when we supply our original German Third Reich-era music to their production sound-tracks: from Bruce Willis’s Hollywood motion picture ‘Hart’s War’ to the recent superb 2-part series ‘The Rise and The Fall of the Third Reich’ on the Discovery & History Channels, plus all the other programmes we have supplied music, combat sound-effects and my voice to. (Our Production Credits are listed on our website for those interested in the TV & Movie side of Tomahawk Films!).

It is certainly good to still be getting important credits on TV and in the movies for our soundtracks as this obviously also gives our welcome customers around the globe the confidence that, in buying our studio-quality products, they are getting the best Third Reich archival music available on CD.

To this end we are still resisting going down the path of digital downloads ourselves, for despite several companies ripping us off and offering our tracks as their own ‘original’ downloads without asking us nor indeed paying us the required royalties for using our material, we have noticed that our global audience still prefer to buy a complete CD with its track listings and attractive & distinct ‘Tomahawk Films Red’ covers and have a ‘proper’ collection of our material, rather than a few somewhat ‘bald & antiseptic’ digitally downloaded tracks with nothing to go with them.

It was much the same in the early days of video… many people eagerly bought an expensive VHS or Beta video-recorder to tape documentaries, (primarily the ever-superb The World at War series narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier), however after a while enthusiastic collectors, (including me back in the late 1970s), preferred to buy the actual video complete with box & sleeve notes to proudly build up a collection of WW-II documentaries on their shelves in much the same way as we still do with reference books…

So as long as our customers, (who range in age from the their mid-20s to the their mid-80s), still want our Third Reich German Archive on standard CD & DVD then we will keep releasing them on those formats. No doubt, the next wonder formats will come and go… but we will certainly keep marketing our products on those that most collectors still have and wish to keep making use of… never fear!!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

Goering: A Career…

I don’t mean this to sound ‘full of it’ (or as my former Aussie colleagues would say ‘up myself’) but when you’ve spent the bulk of your professional career working in and around World War Two & Third Reich military history and watching TV documentaries on the same, almost daily, (allied to an ever-present hobby in the same vein), you eventually reach a point when you think that you may, possibly, have viewed much of the original period archive-footage available or have heard most of the historical angles expressed by the experts from this important period in time.. that in fact there is not much more to come to the surface that you haven’t already watched, heard or read about at some point in the previous 40-odd years of study!

It is also the case, (and one of the reasons that Tomahawk Films ceased being a distributor of WW-II documentaries to spend more time promoting my own TV documentary, ‘Channel Islands Occupied’), that rarely does anybody come up with something totally new in terms of documentary content or unseen 16mm newsreel footage to warrant yet another ‘look’ at a well-worn subject. In fact it always amazes me our Third Reich newsreels footage on Tomahawk Film’s Hitler’s Combat Newsreels is still, apart from the odd few seconds shown here & there, pretty unique in terms of what turns up on our screens these days and so it always manages to retain its ‘first seen buzz’.

One of the reasons I see so much archival material recycled across myriad documentaries is because we have a TV on in the corner of our production office tuned into the main satellite channels to keep an eye on WW-II documentaries to help us up to date with who is using our German music or Sounds of War combat SFX under contract, or to pick up on the names of new documentary companies who might be interested in using our German archive for future projects…

As I have said many times before, with so many WW-II documentaries airing on the dedicated satellite television platforms, (many being merely repeats from previous years) it is always a happy surprise when something fresh pops up on the TV screen and really grabs your attention. I am pleased to say this has happened to me in recent weeks.. firstly yesterday in the shape of a superb doc called Nazi Hunters, following the immediate post-war efforts of US Forces to bring Jochen Peiper and members of the SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ (part of the overall 6th Panzerarmee) to justice for their involvement in the massacre of American GIs at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944/45… and then on Sunday night (and the previous Sunday to that), in the shape of a real cracker of a superb new 3-part documentary series on the H2 Military History Channel entitle Goering: A Career.

In co-production with Germany’s ZDF Channel and with the ever-superb journalist Guido Knopp listed in the credits, (though this time strangely under ‘lighting’ rather than writer/producer, so perhaps this was an early outing to his subsequent career), this series is offering both some stunning original colour footage and a great script providing further thoughts on Goering, the man, thus making it a really engrossing and very well researched & delivered documentary on Hitler’s Number Two and Head of the Third Reich’s air arm..and still the final episode to go..!

Born in 1893, Herman Goering was a former WW1 Ace in the Kaisers’ fledgling air arm and went onto become the much derided, overweight and somewhat lazy Supreme Commander of Hitler’s new air force, the Luftwaffe. His later addiction to morphine has been well documented down the years and this might explain his often strange military decisions, (or indeed lack of them), at times, resulting in his Luftwaffe High Command often being driven to utter distraction by its leader’s increasingly bizarre behaviour later on in the war…

Indeed had Goering been ‘clued-in’ to the modern concept of aerial warfare, (rather than wedded to WW1 fighter tactics), one wonders if the outcome of the Battle of Britain might have been a much closer thing; nevertheless it appears that from the very outset Goering actually knew that his Luftwaffe was under strength in both aircraft & manpower!

Indeed a regular contributor to yesterday’s episode Part 2 was a former Luftwaffe Test Pilot who admitted that all of the early aircraft promised to Hitler, (and often shown in some strength displaying in the skies above early Nazi Party Rallies), were nothing more than un-tested prototypes so, apart from the legendary ME Bf109, when war broke out in 1939, the Luftwaffe was indeed not the force it was wildly publicised as being or that the Allies believed it to be!

Another tantalising fact emerging from this superb profile is that as Goering indeed knew in advance that he had not the firepower at his command to deliver for Adolf Hitler, (despite always assuring his Führer that he had), behind the scenes he was doing everything he could to avoid another World War, including secret pre-war negotiations with Britain to find a way of averting conflict and his air arm being ‘found out’ in actual combat!

From some of what I heard last night it appears, to my mind at least, that Goering was perhaps more of a sensible individual than we have all given him credit for, despite being undoubtedly lazy and often finding any excuse to  bunk off to his superb castle-like country estate at Carinhall to indulge his love of hunting and spend time with his later accumulated wealth. Which was a complete reversal of his fortunes given that, pre-war, he had escaped from his growing role within the fledgling Nazi Party and fled to Sweden where, as a penniless former fighter pilot, he effectively lived off his wife’s parents. He eventually he returned to Germany to take up his position at Hitler’s side, but ever fearful of the Führer’s moods and stubborn single-mindedness plus his increasing desire for war, he never actively opposed Hitler’s visions for European domination, (even though he knew that half of his ideas were barking!).

Also detailed was Goring’s later wealth, stemming from his ‘success’ as an art dealer, though his dealings, (interpreted as ‘shopping’ in the countries Germany had recently occupied) were straightforward theft. Indeed at vital moments when he should have been taking full command of Luftwaffe air operations in the Battle of Britain and thence the 1941/42 Eastern Front campaign in Russia, he was more concerned with having his staff locate great works of art across Europe, to then be transported back to Carinhall in his own personal train… much to the ill-concealed anger of his elite fighter pilots who felt they were trying to conduct air campaigns on two major fronts with their hands tied behind their backs.

One superb interview thus far was with the Luftwaffe fighter ace and Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves holder Günter Rall, who, (with 275 combat victories in World War Two) later went on to serve with distinction in the post-war German Luftwaffe. A remarkably modest and hugely likeable former pilot with his ever-fluent and superb English, his interviews are always worth watching and listening to and in this terrific second episode he again delivers some very interesting facts & figures, plus a ‘no-holds barred’ appraisal of Goering as an air-force leader..!

Another incredible fact of which I was totally aware was that Herman Goring had a younger brother called Albert…very much a man in the background and who actually spirited a number of leading Jewish businessmen and film-makers out of Germany to America in the pre-war period. Indeed when it came to the ‘Jewish Question’ itself, it seems that Goering himself was somewhat more pragmatic about this whole issue than was hitherto known…and incredibly it appears that he also allowed several leading Jews to escape the Third Reich, (despite being Hitler’s  deputy and replacement Führer should Hitler die), excusing himself with the line: ‘A Jew is only when I say he is a Jew’..another most interesting fact to emerge from this documentary.

I won’t give too much more away in case you have not yet seen this 3-parter as no doubt it will be repeated, (a great many times… and rightly so in this case), in the coming weeks and months amidst the tidal wave of great-to-merely-mediocre Third Reich documentaries now airing across the gamut of satellite TV channels, however this one is most definitely worth a watch..the final episode coming on H2 this Sunday evening!

Just as a final thought when talking about the current crop of WW-II documentaries now appearing on a television set near you: I don’t know if you have noticed, but why has there been allowed to emerge an extremely annoying habit of the experts, when wheeled-in to voice their historical expertise on camera, of constantly talking in the present tense?  A whole raft of rather earnest historians, university lecturers and the ‘great & the good’ are paraded before us to eagerly tell us that ‘Goering is this’, ‘Hitler is that, or Rommel is faced with a tough situation, or such & such squadron is flying against so & so or that a unit of this force is fighting through great odds… and so on and so forth!

I don’t know which producer started this appalling interviewing habit, but everybody’s now seemingly at it. However these are now global events from over 70 years ago, so memo to whomsoever: please use was not is… thank you, I feel so much better now..!

                         Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Adolf Hitler’s Last Bodyguard…

For those of us regularly glued to The Discovery or History Channels (the latter when it happily showed historical documentaries from World War Two rather than their strange current scheduling of anything but historical programmes), his face was a regular on our screens as an important interviewee when documenting the life of Adolf Hitler being, as he was, one of the last surviving members of the Führerbunker and possibly the last to actually witness the Führer’s body in May 1945… But last week, on September 5th  at the ripe old age of 96 and sadly following a long illness, Hitler’s last remaining bodyguard, Rochus Misch, died in Berlin.

Born in Silesia, Misch joined the SS Verfüngstruppe in 1937 and thence Hitler’s Bodyguard Division, the Leibstandarte-SS having won the Iron Cross 2nd Class in action in the Polish campaign in 1939. At various points during his years of military service throughout WW-II, his duties included accompanying the Führer as part of a 6-man bodyguard and could be seen in one of the accompanying cars following Hitler that you often see on the German Newsreels.

When serving at the Reich’s Chancellery in the German capital, two of the close bodyguard team would man the permanently busy ‘phones and Misch would revert to his secondary career as radio-operator to share the rota and his military life was permanently spent on Hitler’s closet staff roster in Berlin. So it was that on January 16th 1945, following Germany’s heavy defeat during the Battle of The Bulge in the Belgian Ardennes, Hitler moved his entire entourage, including all SS-Leibstandarte personnel, underground into the Führerbunker, Misch included, where he continued to work as a radio operator on the Fuhrer’s personal staff deep from within his subterranean radio-room…

Thus he now stayed almost permanently underground until war’s end in May 1945 and was therefore witness to the unravelling of the Third Reich and then Hitler’s last-minute marriage to his mistress Eva Braun, as well as the deterioration in the Fuhrer’s mental & physical health as the Russian Forces steadily pressed forward from the East and the capital withered under constant Soviet bombardment, whilst in the West Allied Forces continued their inexorable push across Germany..

In these turbulent last days, Misch was regularly on duty handling all personal radio traffic in and out of the Bunker complex and in the direct environs when, on April 20th, Adolf Hitler & Eva Braun jointly committed suicide and thence again on May 1st when Propagandaminister Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda horrifyingly poisoned all 6 of their children before both taking their own lives shortly after.

At the Third Reich’s dramatic end, only two Leibstandarte-SS personnel were believed to remain on duty in the Bunker: Rochus Misch and Johannes Hentschel, but Misch managed to escape from underground on May 2nd only hours before the Red Army finally broke through and surrounded the Bunker. Captured and sent transported back East to the notorious Lubyanka Prison in Moscow he was tortured by Russian Forces desperate for details of Hitler’s personal life.

Surviving such appalling treatment, he was to spend the next 9 years incarcerated in Soviet Labour Camps before his eventual release in the early 1950s, along with a number of others, (many thousands of former Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS prisoners having died in Russian captivity), to return to Germany and his wife & family in the leafy Berlin suburb of Rudow.

After several years of doing odd jobs, financial backing from a supporter allowed him to set up a successful painting & wallpaper business which he continued to run very successfully up until his retirement. However with the uncovering of the Führerbunker in 1990 during building work just after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Misch became an ‘in-demand’ witness by the media to those last days in the Führerbunker, and his appearances increased even more so after the deaths of Siegfried Knappe, Bernd von Freytag-Loringhoven, (a respected figure many will recognise from TV interviews), and Hitler Youth Courier Armin Lehmann. Togther with these three, Rochus Misch made up the last 4 surviving military staff members who had served down in the Bunker.

In recent years, before illness overtook him, Misch had become something of a ‘celebrity’ in his own right and was regularly consulted by film & documentary makers for insights on his service with Adolf Hitler and the final catastrophic days of the Third Reich down in the Bunker. When asked for his views, he freely ventured that the German leader was ‘no brute and no monster…very normal and certainly not as was written about him… in fact he was a wonderful boss!’

Rochus Misch’s memoirs were published under the title, Der letzte Zeuge (The Last Witness), in 2008 and after the diagnosis of his terminal illness, gave his last interview to an English national newspaper in May 2011, almost 68 years to the day that he last saw Hitler’s charred remains as he exited the Führerbunker for the last time..

Talking of Hitler, I just caught the last half hour of a new French, 2-part documentary production here on UK television on Sunday evening entitled Adolf Hitler – The Colour Years, which I eagerly looked forward to… that was until I realised that, yet again, the producers had decided it would be a real hoot to colourise original war-time 16mm black & white footage! Just why on earth do they feel compelled to do this..apart from the fact it is also inherently dishonest..?  Along with the earlier First World War and thence the later Korean War, these 3 wars were ostensibly ‘fought in black & white’… and to my way of thinking should remain so for later historians and students of the subject..

It is always a cause for celebration on the very rare occasion that original colour Agfa 16mm film footage turns up, (and is therefore an exciting & stunning colour window onto a war), but I find that messing about with the original B & W footage is one of the most annoying things as a viewer looking in and of late has absolutely ruined my enjoyment of what should be good documentaries supported by well researched film footage. Instead of being impressed I find my mind wandering as I gaze at the horrendous greens & blue hues that the colourisers have managed to wash the film footage with… it may all be technically very clever but, for me, it does absolutely nothing for the documentary storyline… quite the opposite in fact!

That said, some of the footage in this new two-parter does look like original colour material and the actual telling of Hitler’s early days is rather well done and has offered some  additional facts to the standard telling, which I had not come across before in all of my years of study. If the researchers are right, the early uniforms of the Sturm Abteilung (Hitler’s first bodyguard) were bankrupt stock bought up by the fledgling Nazi Party from the Hungarian Customs Service, (which would make sense, if you take a close look at the uniforms, particularly the kepis). Plus a certain Henry Ford used to donate all the profits from his German-based car manufacturing plants to the early Nazi Rallies..!

Both facts of which I had not stumbled across before..just goes to show, ‘you learn something every day’!!      

                     Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Sounds of War Combat SFX Archive

When Tomahawk Films acquired a pile of original tins of German Combat Newsreels films in the mid-80s, (from a British Intelligence Officer that actually liberated them from a Gestapo HQ in Hanover towards war’s end), we researched our find and eventually turned the footage into our DVD The Combat Newsreels of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

As the producer I was tasked with cleaning up and restoring this batch of superb old 16mm mute film and dubbing on original German musik sound-tracks & combat SFX to bring these exciting newsreels alive.

Originally they would have been sent out around Germany to small civilian cinemas, to be shown with often just a piano accompaniment and all of the cans were totally silent; so I travelled up to London to the sound archive, (as it was then), at the UK’s Imperial War Museum, to hopefully purchase a selection of original combat effects, including that of the instantly recognisable Stuka..!

However, having arrived at the archive, I sat expectantly at the table as the cassette, (pre-CD era as it was then), containing the eagerly awaited Stuka effect was duly produced with a flourish and inserted into the cassette-player. The sound archivist proudly stood back to watch my reaction..but with amazement I looked up said; “ that’s not a Stuka effect, that’s a man blowing through a comb & paper!’…”ah, you are right”!, he said somewhat shame-faced, “we haven’t got an original.. nor much of anything else in fact..!”

So returning to the studio empty-handed I began our long hunt for original effects and had to start looking further afield..however it made me realise that, apart from a small BBC sound effects tape that was available back then, (sadly no longer), there was absolutely nothing original for us to immediately get our hands on and it was going to be a long search..!

However, happily my various Film & TV travels then led me to working with original Allied & German aircraft, (directing flying sequences with the US’s Confederate Air Force down in Texas and then working on the ‘Wings of the Luftwaffe’ series here in the UK); plus I also contacted a number of collector-friends that legally-owned original German machine- pistols & assorted still-firing weaponry and so slowly, but surely a whole host of authentic sound effects were recorded & acquired by us.

Around the same time, we also made a very fortunate purchase of two small, but now-defunct sound-archives and as a result Tomahawk Films eventually ended up acquiring even more genuine & exiting war-time sound effects from which we were able to build up our very own Tomahawk Films WW-II Combat Effects Archive. So we now had the effects we needed to dub onto our Combat German Newsreels film..but then a little later on we also started marketing this wonderful, eclectic resource to collectors & enthusiasts as a very comprehensive war-time sound-effects library, firstly on cassette thence on CD
.
Entitled Sounds of War, this archive has also, over the years, been bought by many professional dubbing studios & archival sound engineers around the world for use on the sound tracks of numerous documentaries & movies, on The Discovery, History and Yesterday channels and and the like and which are are regularly aired on satellite TV today.

Indeed many such combat sound effects that you will hear in the background on television, (often along with the stirring German music sound-tracks) are usually from The Tomahawk Films’ SFX Archive)..and having worked with these incredible effects myself for over 25 years, in both TV & radio, I can often play ‘spot the Tomahawk effect’  myself when they are now incorporated in so much of other producers’ televisual work, (and for which, happily, they have all paid the royalties to so do!!)..

We also had a great endorsement for ‘Sounds of War’ in the shape of a nice comment from a professional weapons expert, Sgt Walla in the Norwegian Army, who was kind enough to say of our effects that: “the quality was superb and the selections spot on..!”

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012