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Unedited footage constitutes the raw material of documentary film. It contains everything the cameraman shot, usable or not, and in the order in which he shot it. Thus it is a visual document in its primary state, providing the historian with evidence not only of the subject matter displayed in front of the camera lens but also of the attitudes and intentions of the cameraman. In the National Archive, as in most newsreel archives, cards identify the source and content of each item and provide a brief list of the scenes in it. The card in this case is no exception. It classifies it as Signal Corps material. In addition to its file number and title, it gives the sequence of shots in a professional, noncommittal manner, and ends: "Note: Most of the prisoners are former Russian soldiers captured by the Germans near Stalingrad. After, many of them joined the German Army and fought against the Russians." The film itself lasts for about seven minutes and would seem to be all that the cameraman recorded during the time in which what is shown in the film took place. If the material had ever been cut together to make a story, it would have run for barely half that time. What we see is this: 

Lines of men wrapped in heavy coats are moving across a muddy square in front of a row of single story huts. In the background, buildings reveal the outskirts of a small town with what might be a church steeple and a factory chimney providing the chief landmarks. Some of the men are carrying their packs, others are still loading them with their belongings. It's cold; men stamp their feet and rub their hands together. A quantity of discarded or unclaimed personal items are scattered about on the ground. American military police stand by, armed and carrying white night sticks, with which they briskly encourage the men to move along. On the hood of a jeep parked in the vicinity a loudspeaker is set up and a Russian officer with a handset can be presumed to be calling out names. (He's identified as such on the card - the film is silent.) Individuals come forward to have their names checked by a young American officer who is without a hat. The Russian prisoners make their way to a column of trucks. They check their names with another American officer against another list. The hull of an American tank can be seen behind them, a white star displayed prominently on its gun-turret. There are piles of kitbags, cases, personal belongings. The prisoners mount the trucks. A wintry sun casts pale shadows. The trucks move down a mud filled road with American guards sitting at the rear and pull into a railyard. The prisoners are searched again as they climb into freight cars in the railyard. Others wait their turn behind barbed wire, and the shadow of a truck passes across them. The guards are chewing gum. An ancient steam engine slowly pulls the freight cars away from the scene.  

From the conventional film-maker's point of view, the film is rather dull. It looks like routine coverage of routine military life. But the Archives' card identifies the scene as taking place in February 1946 at Platting - a spelling or typing mistake for Plattling. And what happened on February 24, 1946, at Plattling is described by both Bethel and Tolstoy. Some 1500 Russians from a unit commanded by a General Meandrov were due to be repatriated that day. As Tolstoy tells it, in the early hours American troops, equipped with riot clubs and rubber soled shoes, crept into the sleeping Russians' dormitory huts.  

Abruptly the stillness of the camp was broken by the shrieking blast of a whistle. Startled, Meandrov's men woke and looked about them. At once a ghastly cacophony of yells burst from all around. Without any warning, and with accompanying shrieks and curses, the Americans began to lash with the bludgeons at each recumbent figure. "Mak snell! Mak snell!" they shouted in pidgin German, driving the bewildered figures out of their beds, through the doorways and across to the camp gates. Anyone slow in scrambling from his bed was beaten ferociously until he too fled in his underclothes out into the night. At the gates stood a row of trucks, their engines humming, into which the prisoners were driven by their screaming guards. Off along darkened roads the speeding convoy clattered and swayed. There followed a hasty transfer to a train, and the journey was continued some hours later. The train rattled on towards the east, where already a pale cold light was failing in the darkening sky. Near the Czech frontier, beyond Zwiesel, the train halted in the dripping stillness of the Bavarian forest. Blue-capped troops were waiting; officers exchanged brief words through an interpreter, and the bruised and terrified men of Meandrov's Division were shepherded down beside the railway track. Dazed, they stood in little groups amongst the puddles. The American guards, silent and awkward, jumped back into their carriages and prepared to make off. There was a brief hissing and clanking of pistons, and then the blank gaze of the Vlasov men watched swaying lights disappear back along the line. 

The Americans returned to Plattling visibly shamefaced. Before their departure from the rendezvous in the forest, many had seen rows of bodies already hanging from the branches of nearby trees. On their return, even the SS men in a neighbouring compound lined the wire fence and railed at them for their behaviour. The Americans were too ashamed to reply. 


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