Dramas, historical documentaries, and science programs exploring the many facets of World War II and the Holocaust are available to stream on the PBS App and with PBS KVIE Passport.
Immerse yourself in heart wrenching dramas spanning the United Kingdom, United States, and mainland Europe. Examine the toll the war took, from the experiences of U.S. solders in the Ken Burns epic The War to Jewish refugees in Shanghai to Japanese Americans faced with the prospect of internment. Plus, take a scientific approach to this history with Secrets of the Dead and NOVA.
DRAMAS TO STREAM
Atlantic Crossing on Masterpiece
Delve into a lesser-known part of World War II history – the connection between Franklin Roosevelt and Norwegian Crown Princess Martha. Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) stars as Roosevelt opposite Swedish actress Sofia Helin (The Bridge) as Martha, who flees the Nazis with her three young children and lives under Roosevelt’s protection. The unique series explores the Norwegian Crown Princess’s influence in world politics during the war, including the U.S.’s decision to enter the war. In English and Norwegian with English subtitles.
Home Fires on Masterpiece
Experience life on the home front in the rural Cheshire village of Great Paxford. With World War II imminent, two powerful women struggle to put aside their differences in The Women’s Institute and join forces amidst the chaos and uncertainty of wartime. Home Fires on Masterpiece is a heartwarming story of courage, friendship, and holding onto light in our darkest moments. Ruth Gemmell (Bridgerton), Francesca Annis (Flesh and Blood on Masterpiece, Cranford), and Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey on Masterpiece) lead an ensemble cast over two seasons.
The Windermere Children
In this powerful drama based on little-known history, follow child survivors of the Holocaust who are brought to an estate near England’s Lake Windermere to recuperate with the help of volunteer therapists. Without their families, they find kinship in each other and form bonds that give them hope for the future.
World on Fire on Masterpiece
Spanning the first year of World War II, this emotionally gripping series follows the fates of ordinary people across Manchester, Warsaw, Berlin, and Paris. An English translator in Warsaw attempts to save his Polish lover, without the knowledge of his sweetheart back in Manchester. An American war correspondent makes a discovery at the Polish-German border and runs up against censorship in Germany. Despite each character’s differences of background, country, and their role in the war, they all must grapple with the unthinkable: a world in flames.
HISTORY PROGRAMS TO STREAM
Discover the story of the 550,000 Jewish American men and women who fought in World War II. In their own words, veterans both famous (director Mel Brooks, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) and unknown share their war experiences: how they fought for their nation and people, struggled with anti-Semitism within their ranks, and emerged transformed.
How to Watch: Stream now on the PBS App.
Harbor from the Holocaust
Examine the unknown story of the nearly 20,000 Jewish refugees that fled Nazi-occupied Europe to the Chinese port city of Shanghai. Exploring the extraordinary relationship of these refugees and their adopted city, even through the years of Japanese occupation and the Chinese civil war that followed, Harbor from the Holocaust takes a captivating look at how this remarkable influx happened.
My Grandparent’s War
Follow leading Hollywood actors as they re-trace the footsteps of their grandparents and learn how World War II changed the lives of their families. Helena Bonham Carter explores the heroism of both sets of her grandparents – her grandmother, an air warden and outspoken politician, and her grandfather, a diplomat who saved hundreds from the Holocaust. Mark Rylance discovers his grandfather’s extraordinary story, who spent nearly four years as a Japanese prisoner. Kristin Scott Thomas pieces together a lost chapter of her family history, learning how her grandfather, a Royal Navy officer, saved thousands at Dunkirk and survived some of World War II’s most devastating battles. Carey Mulligan travels to Japan to learn about her grandfather’s experience as a British naval officer.
Look out for season 2 featuring actors Keira Knightley, Kit Harrington, and Toby Jones and singer Emili Sandé.
Rise of the Nazis
How did a nation like Germany allow, and even welcome, the destructive and disturbing ideas of Nazism to take hold? In 1930, Germany is a liberal democracy. Just four years later, democracy is dead, Germany’s leader is a dictator, and the government is in the hands of the Nazis. In this series that is part historical examination, part re-creation drama, take a riveting look at Adolf Hitler’s ascent to Führer of the Third Reich and the Nazi’s rise to power – and the story of resistance and destruction that followed.
The U.S. and the Holocaust
Take a look at the Holocaust from a different perspective in this 3-part documentary from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein. Explore how the U.S. responded to one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the 20th century and how it challenged the very ideals of our democracy. The series examines what the U.S. government and American people knew and did as the catastrophe unfolded in Europe and raises the questions that remain essential today: What is America’s role as a land of immigrants? What are the responsibilities of a nation to intervene in humanitarian crises?
This 7-part documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tells the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four quintessentially American towns. Exploring the most intimate human dimensions in a worldwide catastrophe that touched the lives of every family in America, The War demonstrates that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives. The series honors the bravery, endurance, and sacrifice of the generation of Americans who lived through what will always be known simply as “The War.”
ViewFinder: Before They Take Us Away
Chronicle the lives of Japanese Americans who self-evacuated from the West Coast in the wake of forced incarceration during World War II. As the U.S. government prepared to forcibly remove and incarcerate Japanese Americans, a small number took fate into their own hands and fled, becoming refugees in their own country. Hear the untold stories of these “self-evacuees” who spent the war years outside the camps – as they struggled to rebuild their lives and overcome poverty, isolation, hostility, and racial violence.
How to Watch: Stream now on the PBS App.
ViewFinder: Valentía – Mexican Americans in World War II
Examine the experiences of Mexican Americans during the Second World War through interviews with veterans of all branches of our armed forces. Members of later generations also honor those who gave so much for our freedom.
How to Watch: Stream now on the PBS App.
Want to watch even more history shows? Check out A Company of Heroes, After Auschwitz, Betrayed: Surviving an American Concentration Camp, Stories of Survival, and The Queen at War.
SCIENCE PROGRAMS TO STREAM
NOVA: Great Escape at Dunkirk
Join archaeologists and divers recovering remains of ships and planes lost during World War II’s epic Dunkirk operation – and discover how this new evidence helped save Allied forces from defeat. As France fell to the German armies in May 1940, 400,000 Allied troops were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. Their annihilation seemed certain – a disaster that could have led to Britain’s surrender. But then, in a last-minute rescue, Royal Navy ships and a flotilla of tiny civilian boats evacuated hundreds of thousands of soldiers to safety across the Channel – the legendary “miracle of Dunkirk.”
Secrets of the Dead: Bombing Auschwitz
Join historians, survivors, and experts as they consider one of the great moral dilemmas of the 20th century: Should the Allies have risked killing Auschwitz prisoners and bombed the camp to stop future atrocities? In April 1944, Jewish prisoners Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler miraculously escaped from Auschwitz and found refuge in Žilina, Slovakia, where they connected with the Jewish Underground and recounted what they left behind. Their harrowing testimony revealed the true horror of the Holocaust, describing in forensic detail the gas chambers and the full extent of the Nazi extermination program. As Vrba and Wetzler’s account made its way to Allies, the idea of bombing the camp was discussed at the highest levels of government.
Secrets of the Dead: World War Speed
It’s known that German soldiers used a methamphetamine called Pervitin in World War II. But have these tales obscured the massive use of stimulants by British and American troops? Follow historian James Holland on his quest to understand how the use of amphetamines affected the course of World War II and unleashed the first pharmacological arms race.