“Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia” was released in 1943 and was directed by Frank Capra. It is the fifth episode of the seven episode “Why We Fight” series that was commissioned by the Office of War Information. It is the longest film in the series and was meant to be shown in two parts to American servicemen.
This episode was made in collaboration with Russian-born Anatole Litvak, who was the primary director, under Capra's supervision. All the films in the series are in the public domain. In 2000, the United States Library of Congress designated all seven films in the series as "culturally significant" and selected them for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was the second in the series to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It won the National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary Film and a Special Award at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1943.
When England and France declared war on Germany, it was forced to stop its eastward trek towards Russia and head west instead to attack France first and then Great Britain. The failure to tame England made Germany pause its westward advance. It once again turned east and looked at Russia. The German army occupied Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. Russia had a scorched earth policy when fighting Germany. The atrocities the Russians suffered are shown quite graphically. The film discusses the various attacks made by Germany, including the Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad, as well as how the Russians ultimately forced them back.
Some of the footage used in the film came from actual movies in addition to the standard newsreels and animated maps. It is not only American propaganda, but Russian propaganda as well. The film was praised in Russia. Once again, the film glosses over the atrocities performed by the Soviets. Nothing is mentioned about the Soviet occupation of Poland, Romania and the Baltic States or the war against Finland. During the cold war the film was removed from circulation.