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WWI YouTube Series Builds A Week-By-Week Horror Story

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The anniversary of the start of World War I has been memorialized, remembered and revisited countless times this centenary year, but this new program is aiming to recount the conflict in a new way - as it happens.

INDY NEIDELL: I'm Indy Neidell. Welcome to "The Great War." Last week, we saw the fighting peter out on the Western front as the rains and snows of winter came on in force. On the Eastern front, the Russians...

MARTIN: "The Great War" is the title of a YouTube miniseries that's retelling week-by-week the way the conflict unfolded. It's a project that will last, well, as long as the war lasted - for the next four years. Indy Neidell is the host of the series. He spoke to us from Stockholm, Sweden where he works on the project. And he said that telling the story in real time shapes the experience of history.

NEIDELL: It really, really brings - not just, actually, the development of the war, but the real horror of things as each week, oh, yeah, another 100,000 people died, another 50,000 people died. And you see it slowly, slowly spreading from one little part of the world, to three little parts of the world, to, you know, South America, to South Africa, to the Middle East and stuff. You actually really get a sense of how big it actually was.

MARTIN: Your episodes revolve around archival footage of the war. Can you tell us a little bit about working with that kind of footage and some of the more gripping images that you've come across?

NEIDELL: Well, it's pretty impressive, actually. I mean, the British Pathe was one of the first film companies - well, it was just Pathe when it started. They started in 1896. And by the First World War, they had invented the news reel. And they were the biggest documentary film company in the world. So their archives which have something like 80,000 plus films in them have footage of the Kaiser and the czar and their different families and, you know, all of the major players. So we can actually really, you know, whatever I talk about, we have footage of that stuff.

MARTIN: I understand you're also trying, with this project, to make World War I something that younger people are interested in, and that they get drawn into this?

NEIDELL: If you ever watch any, you know, channels that devoted to history, sharks and World War II are pretty much everything that you see. You very rarely see something about World War I, but World War I was, you know, I mean, it was just monstrous. It was such a big thing. And it's such a big thing that led to so many other parts of our history. I mean, there's so many weird things that come from World War I that you don't even realize it, like, vegetarian sausages.

MARTIN: What?

NEIDELL: Yeah, it was actually Konrad Adenauer, future German leader, who made the first vegetarian sausages. If I was a kid, and I got to see this, and I got to see some World War II stuff, this is just as interesting, the footage and the story.

MARTIN: Indy Neidell - he is the host of the four year-long miniseries, "The Great War." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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