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"Holocaust" is a valuable dramatization of the Holocaust and its effects on ordinary people. The Weiss family, a prosperous Jewish family living in Berlin when the Nazi's came to power, suffer greatly as one would expect. It is the Dorf family, led by Michael Moriarity as Erik, whose suffering may be of more interest to the viewer. They suffer from a collapse of morality, and as the mini-series shows, their horror takes longer to develop yet is terrible in its wrath. Excellent work by Frtiz Weaver, Sam Wanamaker, Meryl Streep, Rosemary Harris, Joseph Bottoms, and Robert Stephans. David Warner is positively chilling as Heydrich, a role he would reprise in other works about the period. The viewer should keep in mind that "Holocaust" was originally aired on TV and was constrained by the standards and practices of the 1970s. Yet, it helped pave the way for more depictions of this period of history, including the dramatizations of Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" and quite possibly helped create an audience for "Life is Beautiful," "Jakob the Liar" and the incomparable "Schindler's List."
This film is very graphic in portraying a Jewish and Nazi family in the early part of WW2 up to the end of the war. James Woods and Meryl Streeps portrayal of the young lovers was outstanding. I also read the book, and the mini series really bought home to me how much suffering went on. May it never happen again!
This series is to be applauded for it's (then) groundbreaking story of the holocaust. However there are now several movies and miniseries that present a more accurate and believable history of the holocaust. It is a shame that the producers of Winds of War and Remembrance were not involved. The excellent cast was wasted on this underfunded effort which shows almost from minute one. Going from 1936 to 1940 in 30 seconds destroyed any credibility for this production. This story deserves a true Miniseries with adequate funding (and cast) to show the beginning of Jewish persecution starting around 1932 in Germany until 1940. After 1940 "Winds" and Schilnder have it covered.
This mini series can be found at some video stores and libraries. My
boyfriend brought it home out of the blue thinking I might like it. He was
right. Superbly made movie on one of the darkest times in History. 3 tapes
with 2.5 hours on each for a total of 7.5 hours but each tape seems to go by
so fast this drama is so well filmed and interesting. Its hard to push the
Stop button. I've read Holocaust survivors mention this film and have
commented on its accuracy and even though I wasn't a victim of it,
everything in the movie seemed so real and life like. Very well planned and
its obvious alot of research was done to mimic was actually happened as
close as possible, down to the sharp SS uniforms and jew clothing, the start
of anti-semitism, some historical facts, border crossings, train transports,
concentration camp and labor camp life and hardships.
A wonderful breakthrough chilling performance by Michael Moriarty who plays the good Aryan lawyer boy "Dorf" turned bad when he joins the SS. We see this family man with 2 children evolve into a vicious monster.
The story of the Weiss family is followed. Dr Weiss, his wife and 3 children (Rudy,Karl and Anna)and how they struggle to survive as their family is torn apart and lives changed forever as a result of the Third Reich.
Wonderful early performances by Meryl Streep and James Woods. Woods plays Jewish Karl Weiss married to a beautiful Christian woman Inga played by Meryl Streep. Inga has to witness her husband and his whole family being taken away from her and hauled off to camps.
Nothing is sugar coated here. Some scenes such as beatings and executions are very hard to watch. There appears to be actual archive footage of disturbing photographs that the SS guards watch as slide shows.
By far one of the best movies on the Holocaust. Highly recommended. I believe it won 8 much deserved Emmy awards.
I rarely give a perfect 10 but this case I'll make an exception.
This simply and aptly titled miniseries is not only titled that way,
but is told that way as well. Aptly, it is about a circle of German
Jews who simply live their lives until they are accosted by the hate
campaign against them, which takes them completely aback, and which
works the way it worked with virtually every circle of German Jews
during the reign of the Third Reich. Their spiral into misery, their
loss of freedom, is like a dog whose master drops them off at the pound
and drives away, never to come back: Like such an unfortunate animal,
they simply have no idea why the master they loved and lived with
turned their back coldly and left them to whatever misery would work
like clockwork till their lonely, sorrowful and mystified deaths. That
is not to say that each of the characters ends up this way. Every
character undergoes deeply nuanced strands of this saga.
The narrative stems from a Polish émigré, a much-liked general practitioner in 1935 Berlin where he lives with his wife Rosemary Harris, her parents, and their three children. When his oldest son, played by James Woods in a curious uber-American casting choice, marries Meryl Streep, comparatively apt in casting as an Aryan German, he is confronted by Anti-Semitism but justifies it and the family resolves not to leave the country. Michael Moriarty plays the husband of one of the doctor's German patients, a scrambling lawyer who strives for a real living and class progression by joining the fledgling yet prevailing Nazi Party. Within three years things will have transposed markedly for them all.
The performances are all persuasive in some way or another. Michael Moriarty is chilling in his indirect self-assertion, unbending in spite of his character's realization of the immediacy of his personal involvement in the histrionics. An early Meryl Streep performance cannot help but be noticed in particular, demonstrating even before Sophie's Choice her realistic emotional responses and how especially aware she is of her character's personal backdrop. Even James Woods merges his expressively temperamental facade with an inward timidity; despite his strange presence, the drama comes naturally to his grand gestures.
Holocaust is, yes, a melodrama, but it is also quite unrelenting in its depiction of early Nazi hate campains, and a lot of its drama means going to the far lengths of the everyday horrors of Nazism. It is obligated to take itself seriously and fulfills that duty to the subject matter with a feeling of epic entitlement.
"Holocaust" is a brilliantly made mini-series that made a HUGE social
impact when it debuted. Here in the US, the term 'Holocaust' was rarely
used before 1978 and it's become a familiar part of our lexicon since.
The series follows the Weiss family from 1935-1945 and shows how these
Jews fared during the Holocaust. Additionally, the Dorf family who know
the Weiss family is shown as a parallel. Unlike the Weiss clan, the
Dorfs are gentiles. At first, they seem like decent people but over
time, they become caught up in the SS and Erik becomes one of the
architects of the Final Solution. The plots are all well-written and as
the Weisses are disbursed, you see how each of them is caught up in the
hate and hysteria. In addition to nice direction and writing, it didn't
hurt that the show had an amazingly competent cast which included Fritz
Weaver, Meryl Streep, James Woods, Sam Wanamaker, Michael Moriarty and
While I truly believe that this is one of the greatest mini-series events of all-time, the show is not quite perfect. One problem is NOT the fault of the filmmakers and that is that the Jewish prisoners and ghetto residents look way too healthy. You cannot starve actors enough without killing them to really approximate how awful it really was--so it is, unintentionally, a bit sanitized. Also, while it was not necessary, it would have been nice to know the dates as events unfolded. Sometimes this is given--mostly is it not.
One final note. Although the series was apparently comprised of four episodes, on DVD, it's stretched into five.
So one day in 1977, you have the brilliant idea of making a TV
miniseries about a Berlin family that struggles to survive the
holocaust. Several problems might occur to you when you do this: you
will not be able to depict it realistically, because it is too
horrifying for TV. You might get sucked into melodrama or soap opera,
because this is the way TV goes. You might get overly ambitious, and
kill the realism of the project again in a different way. You might be
committing the ultimate tasteless act, because any project of this sort
is going to fall short (except maybe Schindler's List). Then, for some
inexplicable reason, you make the series anyway, throwing caution to
the wind, and, lo and behold, you find just these criticisms launched
at you by a future Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel. Does your
project have any redeeming value?
Well, oddly enough, maybe. The reason is because, when the film is shown to audiences both in West Germany and the US, it creates an incredible impression because, for perhaps the first time, people in both countries get to see something resembling the holocaust come to life. It provokes an extraordinary culture-changing debate in West Germany, and helps mold late 20th-century Jewish identity elsewhere.
Does this make the film good? I don't know. I suspect the answer is no-- Wiesel is spot-on complaining that you just can't really do it right on TV--put the Holocaust on a 48-inch living room screen for real, and we would all be heading for the bathroom to throw up and cry for days. And yet, the performances and story are compelling, the issues are there for us to grapple with, and, at least in some measure, we see it. Maybe seeing it at least in some fashion might help us avoid it in the future- -anyone who visits even this sanitized version would never want anything to do the real thing.
And then again, maybe I'm wrong. Wiesel is smarter and wiser than me. Watch and decide, hopefully I have given you the parameters of the issue. I don't feel qualified to really judge this one.
This was the first bigger movie who showed nearly all aspects of extincted families. Also the Nazi side had been shown. It is not as perfect as perhaps Schindler's List, but it enables more social background and thought patterns of escaping families. Also the movie shows, how Nazis system could work. Not boring, but it could be longer showing more aspects of offenders. An interesting series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This really saddens the heart, strengthens the soul, and, angers the
This is a very personalized mini-series-true-story centered around a German-Jewish family (The Family Weiss) who is victimized by the tyrannical and newly-formed Nazi regime that they never saw coming nor took seriously; and, thought was only a 'phase' lead by a 'nut' (Hitler) whom would be thrown out of office after only a short time.
Before all of this became a reality, these Jews were not only German citizens, but, German Patriots who loved Germany. One grandfather was even awarded The Iron Cross in World War I while fighting for Germany.
People don't seem to realized that Jews were not only murdered by the Nazis; but, before the Nazi revolution began, many Jews were Very Patriotic Germans who fought in German Wars and earned Iron Crosses of all Classes and became heroes of Germany.
How that must feel to have the very nation that your family has lived in for generations, even centuries; and, has even fought and spilled blood for...suddenly brand you 'an enemy of the state' and take away all of your possessions; your property; your livelihood; your status; your family; and, place you in a jail; beat you; and, then send you to a concentration camp to feel that death is the only way out of this sudden state of Living-Hell!?!? Most of these family members, as with most Jews (and, others, like Gypsies) went along quietly and were worked to death; or, worked almost to death and murdered.
BUT...Rudy Weiss, the youngest son, whom his dad called "My Little Street Fighter," was not one of them! This guy was someone whom the Jews must have, or, should have, canonized as a Jewish Saint! This guy had 'Balls-of-Steel' and 'A-Heart-of-Gold' and 'just would not give up, nor, stop bringing the fight to the Nazis!'
This is a 'must-see' mini-series for anyone and everyone that proves that 'as long as there is opposition to a bully, there is a chance to beat that bully!'
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1988, we had "War and Remembrance," which gave us a graphic and
multi-faceted tale of the Nazi's genocidal program. In 1993, we had
Schindler's list, which gave us a less panoramic but equally explicit
display of what went on in the death camps.
"Holocaust" was shown in 1978, preceding the others, and is the least careful about the material. It's budget must have been small because there are no epic scenes of the nightmarish conditions and events. It looks like the TV movie it was, even the credits.
The performances are mostly fine. Michael Moriarty could hardly be better as the baby-faced, imaginative SS officer. Tovah Feldshuh is perfect as the pretty but tough Czech resistance fighter, and Sam Wanamaker with his gray hair and rugged features does a good job as the pharmacist who finally realizes what's going on. Sam Bottoms disappoints. He looks hardy enough but isn't much of an actor. I've seen better on the stage of a community college in St. George, Utah. Meryl Streep doesn't really have much to do but she certainly looks the very Aryan part, and she's sexy too.
The writing doesn't do Moriarty any favors. Unemployed, the non-political lawyer applies for a job with the SS and gets it. Next time we see him, he's fully committed to his awful task. It takes him about ten second of screen time to convert from human to beast. He does away with himself at the end, but I don't know why, and neither will you. Some of the film was shot in the spring and summer, which is a relief because, judging from most other depictions of the events, everything seemed to take place under gloomy skies and in muddy fields with patches of snow.
If there's a message, it's that absolutely nobody -- not Nazis, not anti-Nazis, not nationalist partisans, not Christians, not foreigners -- has any interest in the plight of the Jews who are being systematically swept up and exterminated. Their only recourse is to stick together, fight before they die, and hope to reach Palestine some day.
The people who put stories like this together have to be careful because they are dealing with one of the more horrible events in recent history and the narrative is extremely emotional, especially to Jews and others who lost family members in Europe. It's rather like the crucifixion is to Christians. The very subject deserves delicate treatment. "Holocaust" reads more like a primer, full of stereotypes.
Yet I'm glad it was made. People forget rather easily. And they seem to forget most quickly those things that make them uncomfortable to think about. Moreover, an astonishing number of younger people don't know what happened before and during the war. A survey of high school students about five years ago showed that many of them didn't know who fought against whom. A survey by the Chicago Tribute revealed that almost 25% of 17-year-olds couldn't identify Adolf Hitler. In 2010, a survey showed that one in five Americans didn't know which country the United States had won its independence from. Collectively, we don't seem to show much curiosity about anything that doesn't directly affect our body sheaths.
If this was an artistic disappointment, it was a valuable history lesson. It took another ten years for "War and Remembrance" to bring us another, more polished, reminder, and five years more for "Schindler's List." For elderly Jews, history may be a nightmare from which they are trying to awake, to quote another derided ethnic, but for the satisfied kids skateboarding on the quiet residential street of No Problem Drive, and playing video games and watching "World's Wildest Police", it's all becoming as remote as Nova Zembla.
"Why should I have to know anything about what happened so long ago, and why do I have to memorize the names of all fourteen planets?" Well, I suppose it's because if your mind finally becomes a complete blank, you'll all follow World War II down the memory hole.
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