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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 1970's, the mini-series came into vogue on television. For a while,
ABC was the king, with such dramas as "Rich Man, Poor Man"; and "Roots".
Then NBC came along with "Holocaust." Like "Roots," it gives a personal
tale of horrifying circumstances. We see the genocide perpetrated by the
Nazis and their collaborators, through the eyes of the family
Spoilers- At first we meet a fine, upstanding German family, the Weiss family: father Joseph, mother Berta, sons Rudi and Karl, and daughter Anna. Joseph is a doctor, Karl an artist, Berta a pianist. Berta's father was a decorated veteran of the German Army in World War I. Karl is married to Inga, a christian-born. The Weiss family is loving, prosperous, and doomed by their religion.
We also meet Erik Dorf, a lawyer with his own family: Wife Marta and a son and daughter. Dorf is out of work and downcast. He is the son of a baker who worked his way through law school. Marta is a patient of Dr. Weiss and an ambitious woman.
We watch as the restrictions on Jews grow. At first it is subtle, then things become more overt. Dr. Weiss is dismissed from the hospital, Karl has had no commissions and can find no other work. Meanwhile, Dorf has become a member of the SS and aide to Heydrich. Dorf is a master of using semantics and cold, twisted logic to justify oppression of Jews.
Eventually, Karl is arrested and sent to Buchenwald, while Dr. Weiss is deported to Poland. The grandfather is beaten and his shop destroyed during Kristallnacht. Rudi runs away and Anna is raped by a group of Nazis. She loses her tenuous grip on her sanity. She is taken to a "sanitarium" where she is suffocated via carbon monoxide poisoning.
Berta eventually joins her husband and his brother in Warsaw. Karl is transferred to another camp where he creates images of the horrors of the camps. His hands are broken and he is beaten severely. He is briefly reunited with his wife before being sent to Auschwitz, leaving her and their unborn child. He dies while creating a final piece of art.
Dr. Weiss and Berta end up in Auschwitz, after plotting to help some people escape from the trains, in Warsaw. Berta dies first, later followed by her husband.
Dr. Weiss' brother, Moses, helps lead the Warsaw uprising, but is shot by the Nazis.
Young Rudi escapes first to Czechoslovakia, where he meets a beautiful Jewish woman, Helena, and they escape into Russia. They eventually join with a group of Jewish Partisans, but, Helena is killed. Rudi is captured and taken to Sobibor. He takes part in an escape and eventually finds freedom.
Rudi is reunited with Inga and meets his nephew, Joseph; Karl's son. His family will live on in Joseph and Rudi. He is offered a job to help smuggle Greek Jewish children into Palestine.
This series was wonderfully written and is filled with great performances. Meryl Streep and James Woods were coming into their own as actors. Great character actors like Fritz Weaver, Sam Wannamaker, David Warner, Ian Holm, and so many others bring life to this production. Fans of "Spider-Man" will recognize actress Rosemary Harris (Aunt May) as Berta Weiss. Michael Moriarty's normal cold performance is especially chilling and effective here. He seems so lifeless as life is destroyed around him. Deborah Norton, as Marta, is even more horrifying, as she encourages her husband to be bold and seize his opportunities.
This series should be required viewing by students, along with "Schindler's List" and "Night and Fog." People everywhere should see it and remember the words, "Never again!"
*** 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.
I just recently purchased this movie, and although it's lengthy it's
well worth the seven hours plus to watch. The Weiss family went through
pure hell. The third disk was the hardest chapter to watch. Graphic as
Meryl Streep is young and so beautiful, and as usual gives a beautiful portrayal of a woman in love and very strong and relentless.
James Wood is also good in the movie, although he's not in it as much as he should have been, you still see why he is the actor he is today.
I highly recommend this movie, but be warned, it is extremely heartbreaking.
In my honest opinion "Holocaust" is terrifying experience of the way
humanity can act when the horrors of Nazi Germany is thrown upon it.
The cast with Meryl Streep, Michael Moriarty and Joseph Bottoms in the leads shows the struggle of Jewish family from when the Nazi comes into power and until the liberation of the survivors in the death camps in 1945 and the Exodus to Israel.
The great achievement of the series is the ability to demonstrate the degradation of man when it has little or no hopes of survival at all. Furthermore "Holocaust" displays how the common man (Michael Moriarty) is lured into believing the Nazi regime is the way out of the economic slump which befell Europe in the early years 1930th following the fold of Wall Street in 1929.
I was only young teenager when I first saw the series on Danish television in 1979, but I've never forgotten the series and till today I stand firmly on the belief that neither any series nor movie have portrayed the Shoah with such conformity with the reality - Only Steven Spielbergs "Schindlers List" comes close.
...but I thought the series did a good job of portraying it from a personal
perspective in a number of ways. In particular, the way the portrayed
victims did/could not believe what was happening until it was too late was
convincing and heartbreaking. I would have liked to see the 1943-May 1945
period handled more in detail. It felt like the producers all of a sudden
had to squeeze a four-part series into three.
I don't know if Dorf was based on a real person, but the evolution of the character was fascinating and scary. The viewer was left somewhat to his/her own conclusions on Dorf's state of mind and beliefs by the time he was interviewed by occupation forces. Maybe that's just as well - can any satisfactory conclusions be drawn about such people?
I have read the other comments and was suprised to see a few people thought it was "boring" or not as good as Schindler's List. I actually watched this years ago as a young teen and recall being enthralled because of course other than history class it wasn't widely discussed. I knew more than most because my best friend's father lost his parents in the camps. Certainly it bogged down in parts but there were some superb performances and especially from Micheal Moriarty as a weak man molded by both his wife and his acceptance into the Nazi Party. It turns out oddly enough that Moriarty really is a bit loony. I don't think network TV would have the guts to attempt something as ambitious now and I am not sure that viewer's would be able to pay attention for such a long time. Yes it is flawed but I would implore anybody to watch it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before "Schindler's List" pulled at my heartstrings, there was "Holocaust," the story of 2 families during the rule of Hitler: The Weiss family, who are practically destroyed by the Jewish massacre, and The Dorf family, whose father, Erik Dorf (Michael Moriarty) works with Heydrich (David Warner) to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe.
The film is incredibly painful because of how the family is systematically destroyed (The grandparents take their own lives, the baby sister that is raped and eventually gassed, the artist son that is imprisoned and tortured because of paintings depicting the Nazi crimes.) and how many people fought to survive the horrors. Kudos to a young Meryl Streep as Inga, the German woman that marries a Jew and does everything in her power (including sleeping with a sleazy friend of the family that works at the concentration camp that her husband is in) to hold onto him, James Woods as Karl the artist that, despite the horrors inflicted on him, refuses to surrender, Rosemary Harris as Berta, the strong willed wife of Dr. Josef Weiss (Fritz Weaver), whose refusal to believe in the growing horror that will destroy the family, and Joseph Bottoms as Rudi, the young son that runs away from home and, along with his Helena (Tovah Feldshuh), joins the resistance and witnesses the horror of the Nazi Army.
The film,even after 25 years since I first saw it, is still chilling. It makes you understand why many people did not leave when the nightmare first occurred. Who would believe that such horrors would happen?
I was in college in '78 when instructed to watch this as an assignment.
It was moving to say the least. Woods, Moriarty, and future superstar
Streep are forever embedded in my memory for those superbly acted
roles. Watching it now  for the first time since then after so
many other films and documentaries of the period, it's almost like I
saw it very recently--it was/is THAT moving.
When the SS tears in to the artists' studio, it looks **SO American** anymore --- just like today's SWAT team looking for stash of the "drug dealer" who sold 3.5g Cannabis to "Confidential Informant." Never would've imagined in 1978 that the horrors of the Third Reich would be so prevalent in 21st Century USA ... BUT THEY ARE!!! Most people were in denial then as they are now. Watch it. Beware. Governments in the USA have become entities unto themselves. Wake up people. RON PAUL & GARY JOHNSON FOR THE PEOPLE -- ALL OTHERS ARE NOT!
There IS a holocaust today in the USA. HISTORY DOES REPEAT ITSELF when people become complacent and obedient. Never doubt that there is a bunk in their prison waiting for YOU or a loved one.
SEARCH KEYWORDS: RADLEY BALKO overkill-rise-paramilitary-police-raids-America
Holocaust has to rank up there as one of the best mini-series' ever. It has to be up there with Roots and Band of Brothers as some of the best that t.v. has ever offered. Holocaust works because it puts the horror of Hitler's Third Reich in very personal terms in the way it was presented from two families' perspectives. The performances were done very well, the storyline was not only good but very entertaining. It kept me riveted to the t.v. when it was on. This didn't need to be graphic to get the story across on the horrors of naziism and what Jews went through. In fact being form one Jewish families perspective makes the holocaust itself that much more personal and up close. This was definitely must see t.v.
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