Many films have been made on the topic of the Holocaust, like Schindler's List and The Pianist, but most people have forgotten the 1978 4-episode miniseries by the name Holocaust which for the first time shaped the perceptions of the American and European audiences regarding the horrors of the Holocaust. It received numerous awards including Emmy Awards for Outstanding Limited Series and for the outstanding performances of Meryl Streep, Michael Moriarty and Blanche Baker.
The story covers the terrible period of 1935 to 1945 in Nazi Germany. The story mainly revolves around two families: one Jewish, the victims of the Holocaust, and another, a Christian "Aryan" family, the participant perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The Weiss Family, a moderately wealthy Jewish family, consists of the Polish-born general physician Dr. Josef Weiss (Fritz Weaver), his German-born wife Berta (Rosemary Harris), and their three children. The eldest among the children, Karl Weiss, a painter, was married to a German "Aryan" girl named Inga (Meryl Streep). The younger brother Rudi Weiss is a football player while the youngest of them all is the teenaged daughter Anna Weiss (Blanche Baker).
The Dorf family consists of Erik Dorf, a lawyer facing severe economic difficulties and unable to maintain his wife, Marta (Deborah Norton) and their two small children. On the insistence of his wife Erik joins the Nazi party for getting rid of his economic problems. He rapidly rises up the SS ranks to become the right-hand man of Reinhard Heydrich (David Warner) who is one of the top Nazi officers and one of the main architect of the mass extermination of the Jews. To further his career Erik Dorf accepts Nazi ideology and plays a pivotal role in coordinating the merciless mass killings of the Jews in the death camps like Auschwitz.
Though the miniseries was criticised for not being sensitive enough, but it delivers on all the grounds. It has been excellently directed and have powerful performances from the actors. It has a heart-wrenching storyline. And most importantly, it is the only one perhaps to have successfully captured the period of Nazi Germany and all its different aspects in its entirety. It has covered the entire period from the rise of Nazi Germany to the Soviet invasion and freeing up of the concentration camps. It has amazingly shown both the sides of the victims and the perpetrators through these two families. On one hand the Weiss family become victims of the Holocaust while on the other hand the Dorf family prosper as perpetrators. It has chronologically covered almost everything from the Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) violence and pogroms to the deportation of Jews to ghettos like Warsaw and Lodz, then their further deportation to the extermination camps. Furthermore, it has covered the aspect of how the economic situation of Germany led to people joining and supporting Nazism. And it also covered aspects like Ghetto uprisings in Warsaw and Lodz and also formation of forest partisan groups of Jews. It covers intricate details like how first the Jews were killed en masse by machine-gunning them down but later the Nazis developed a "more efficient method" of killing the Jews by gassing them in gas chambers. It also pays attention to details like why didn't most Jews resist and how the killings were eerily referred to as "delousing" and "shower". It ends in 1945 with the freeing of the concentration camps by Soviet forces and the interrogation of Nazi officers like Dorf by American forces. Till then most of the Weiss family is wiped out. Thus it is one of the most historically accurate depictions of the Holocaust covering almost all major aspects. Its historical accuracy makes it a great series for history lovers and its moving storyline and performances makes it a must watch for every serial and movie buff. And here I give it a 8 out of 10. The icing on the cake is that this series is available in YouTube in five parts, and I have given the links below:
Holocaust miniseries Part 1-
Holocaust miniseries Part 2-
Holocaust miniseries Part 3-
Holocaust miniseries Part 4-
Holocaust miniseries Part 5-