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The U.S. and the Holocaust (Ken Burns)
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|Contributor||Léon Dische Becker, Meryl Streep, Paul Corning, Sarah Botstein, Mariusz Glabinski, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, Hope Davis, Elliott Gould, Murphy Guyer, Adam Arkin, Josh Lucas, Marlena Grzaslewicz, Werner Herzog, Lynn Novick, Joe Morton, Carolyn McCormi, Ken Burns, Olivia Gilliatt, Helena Zengel See more|
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Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein’s three-part, six-hour documentary series, The U.S. and the Holocaust, examines how the American people and our leaders responded to one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century, and how this catastrophe challenged our identity as a nation of immigrants and the very ideals of our democracy. Producers: Sarah Botstein, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, Mike Welt. Narrator: Peter Coyote. Author: Geoffrey C. Ward.
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 5 x 0.51 inches; 1.76 Ounces
- Director : Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, Sarah Botstein
- Run time : 6 hours
- Release date : October 4, 2022
- Actors : Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep, Helena Zengel, Adam Arkin, Paul Corning
- Studio : PBS (DIRECT)
- ASIN : B0B14GH1FH
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 3
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,024 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
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Ken Burns’ documentary, “The U.S. and the Holocaust” is divided into six episodes. Episode 1 deals with America’s response to Jewish immigration---and, really, foreigners more generally---before the Second World War. The reality is that before the late 1800’s, what we now call immigration law did not exist, and people could come and go as they please. Yes, there was intolerance, yes, there was racism, slavery, and lots of other issues, but generally, before the late 1800’s, Americans had no problem with immigration. It was only later that this type of xenophobia developed. Ken Burns masterfully shows how the ways in which anti-Semitism---and xenophobia in general---were propagated---and put into action---in Nazi Germany were very similar to how ethnic and religious minorities were treated in the U.S., except for the fact that in Germany, any violence was government-sponsored, while in the U.S., it was not. I found it interesting, ironic, and a bit surprising that even American-born Jews were hostile to foreign-born ones in the early days. When one of those historians talked about people’s fears that because many of the immigrants were poor, sick, disabled, disadvantaged, and so on that their problems---the problems and issues that they were facing---would somehow “infect” mainstream American society sounds a lot like the xenophobic rhetoric that one hears from people like Tucker Carlson on Fox News when he accused immigrants of making America “poorer and dirtier.” Ken Burns’ own discussion of what we now call the Great Replacement Theory---the silly, ridiculous, delusional, bigoted---and dangerous---myth propagated by many on the right today such as Tucker Carlson in the United States and Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orban, the head of the Fascist Fidesz Party---and it is a Fascist party---Marine Le Pen in Fraance, and Italy’s new Fascist leader, Giorgia Meloni, among others. I was surprised that the last sterilization laws was only repealed in 2014. I also see a lot of parallels between why the extreme far right was allowed to take over established conservative parties in Germany in 1933 and how they have done the same with America’s own conservative movement. I also found it interesting---and, frankly, kind of surprising---that in the early twentieth century, the positions that Democrats and Republicans had on immigration are quite literally the exact opposite that they have today. I have also seen---sadly---these kinds of attitudes come to be absorbed into America’s own Republican Party---and the Conservative Movement more generally. In hindsight, it seems that under former President Donald J. Trump, those very same barriers that anti-immigration hawks in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were, in fact, reinstated. In some ways, I find it ironic---and, frankly hypocritical---that FDR pretended to be fearful of the growing tide of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic views in the U.S., when many of those very xenophobic views were promoted by people in FDR’s own administration. I was surprised at how much of the racist and xenophobic aspects of the Nazis’ ideology was, in fact, influenced by a lot of the very same racist, xenophobic views of American politicians and thinkers. It is interesting that the very same whataboutism that various contemporary dictators often use against us when we challenge their human rights abuses was also the way the Nazis often deflected criticism of how the German government treated minorities during the World War II era. I was surprised at how chummy America was with the Nazis before we entered World War II. Those sham referenda that the Nazis held to justify the annexation of various parts of Europe sounds a lot like the fake pseudo-“referendum” that are being used to justify Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Ukraine. The fact that you needed entry and exit visas sounds a lot like how---even today---in many of the former Soviet Republics that have remained dictatorships (e.g. Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, etc), you also need special documentation both to enter and to leave. I was surprised that Spain, who was an ally of Nazi Germany actually offered refuge to many Jews. When I had first learned this in a biography of Spain’s Fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, by a friend of his, Roberto De La Cierva, I was skeptics and initially thought it was another lie made up to cover up the brutality of a dictator by an ardent supporter; yet as Ken Burns points out, Franco did, in fact, take in several Jews. I feel that FDR’s treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., was right, when he accused anti-immigration and anti-Semitic elements in the government were, to some extent, complicit in the murder of the Jews due to their own refusal to take people in. At the same time, I was a bit surprised that the U.S. government---and the American public at large---continued to be hostile toward immigrants and immigration even after seeing the results of the Holocaust. I am not surprised that there were bigots, xenophobes and racists back then---there still are people like that in this country today---but what I am surprised by is how people continued to harbor these views even after seeing what the Nazis had done. It is also ironic that former Nazis were also allowed into the United States after World War II solely because thet were anti-Communist---but then again, the U.S. has propped up other Fascist governments for those very same reasons---the government of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, the government of Juan Perón in Argentina, the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (who, by the way, we actually put in power---both because the Baathists were anti-Communist but also later, during the Iran-Iraq War, because they were secular and anti-Iranian). I also thought that it was interesting that it was, in fact, a Holocaust survivor, Raphael Lempkin, who actually was the first to actually call it “The Holocaust” and was also the first to coin the term “Genocide” as well.
This is probably one of the most fascinating, important, and timely documentaries that Ken Burns has ever made. Everyone should watch it.