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The great part about modern history is you can see it in video. Black and white, scratchy, but it’s enough to make an era feel real.

Recently I stumbled upon Critical Past, a big collection of video snippets online. It says it’s “one of the largest online collections of historic, royalty-free film footage and still images in the world.” I can’t vouch for that, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The videos I saw – culled from U.S. government sources —  were glimpses into postwar Germany I haven’t seen in too many other places.

There are 6,400 clips from 1945 alone, not all of them in Germany, of course, but many having to do with World War II. Here’s an example from 1946, aerial footage of the industrial Ruhr area where I live now. If photos of the ruins are powerful, video is even moreso. still image ruhr destruction critical past1

Don’t mind the prices on the website. Browsing online is free.