1943: Cornered and with the tide of WWII turning irreversibly against it, Germany engaged in total war. Hitler needed men to fight. By drawing on resources within the Hitler Youth, and by launching a wide-scale recruitment process, he managed to enlist 20,000 teenagers to establish the sadly infamous 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.
Within less than a year, they were trained to overcome their own physical and psychological limits. They were sent to Normandy to repel the Allied landing that was said to be imminent. The exaltation of youth, together with a call to sacrifice in the name of victory for the Reich, would make them a fierce enemy. Totally obedient towards their unstoppable leaders, they would show incredible fighting spirit but also cruelty rarely seen in war. The Allied Forces, shocked by their youthfulness, ironically and tragically nicknamed them "The Baby Division".
They turned into fanatical war criminals who during their retreat along the roads of France carried out numerous retaliatory actions and barbaric exactions.
One out of two of these young German men who were let loose on the front line would never come home. In this exceptional film, with its astonishing restored and colourised archives, a few rare survivors have accepted to give their eyewitness accounts 75 years later.
Direction: Julien Johan
Production: ZED for France Télévisions & National Geographic