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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
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?
*** 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!"
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.
Watching the mini-series "Holocaust" on video, one realizes that its length (8 hours) was more a function of having enough to fill a few nights. It would have been an outstanding 3-hour movie a la Schindler's List. Yet, the slow development allowed to witness incremental changes in the characters and their situations, so as the film proceeds, one can sympathize more with the characters because we know them better after having spent so much time with them. Focusing on the German family in contrast to the Jewish one was a good idea, but having said all the above, I found it difficult to like any of the characters. Performances were adequate, but none impressed me as being outstanding
This series main value is in showing the Weiss family members living
their perfectly ordinary lives, and then gradually realizing the big
mistake they had committed when they felt Nazism was a passing fad.
One can feel the increasing desperation of those people, the almost
useless attempts to feel hope, and the final realization that the only
way was to fight back, or at least try to. In creating a bond between
the viewer and the characters, a special empathy is formed where we
feel we must protect those fictional yet real people and never allow
that situation to happen again.
However, what can we do? Examining the last few decades of human
history, we clearly see that mass murder and genocide aren't just an
accident, they seem to happen regularly, given a chance. And "being
civilized" by itself doesn't seem to be a solution, as we are reminded
in "Holocaust", it happened in the land of Beethoven and Schiller. And
here is where I saw this series biggest shortcoming. It fails to
adequately display the attitudes of the common German people of the
Erik Dorf is the most unsatisfactory character to me. He is
transformed suddenly from a shy and mild mannered unemployed lawyer
into a shy and mild mannered Reinhard Heydrich's assistant. He
repeatedly suggests to his boss new formulas for genocide, without
absolutely any feeling for the people with whom he had social
relations before Nazism came along. People are not like that. An
intelligent and introspective man like Dorf, would certainly be able
to imagine himself in the position of his victims. The first real
feeling he shows is when Colonel Blodel makes him actually shoot a man.
In Blodel's words, "when you kill one Jew you feel it easier to kill
ten", or words to that effect. That sounds more like it. The Germans
didn't suddenly wake up one morning and say: "Hey, folks, you know
what? Let's do a genocide!". The gradual build up of the forces that
brought the Holocaust along is what should really be avoided, if we
truly want to keep it from happening again.
However, from the producer's standpoint, I can see how difficult this
proposition is. It would be very difficult to show a typical German
family, from the Weimar chaos, through the economical Depression of
the early 1930's, into the new hopes brought by the Nazi coming to
power, fueled by the Goebbels propaganda. At least some viewers would
sympathize with those characters, some people might think it perfectly
natural to gradually evolve into a mass killer. Some people might not
realize there is a point where any moral creature should draw a line,
as many Germans didn't.
But amoral and heartless people do exist, they have always existed in
any society. The question is how that kind of people can come to
control a nation, and how to avoid it in the future. This question was
never even remotely treated in "Holocaust". In the end, given the TV
medium, perhaps this is the best that could be done, but just be aware
that this is a fiction story about a fictional family going through
extreme adversity. It's not a historic account or analysis, by any
means. It was worth seeing on TV as a series, but not on video. Too
long. With good editing, maybe a nice two or three hour long film
could be cut from it.
This made-for-TV drama was created, it has been claimed, during an "American sensationalist time about the holocaust"...when the media, and press couldn't talk more about it....a trend that has continued ever since the trial of Adolf Ehrlichman of 1961. This tedious drama is an obvious new attempt to downplay the horror of the camps, but does express well the tension and fear the Jews must have had at the time. However, it really conveys nothing new about the time, and events. Again, like Shindler's List, we are left with a less than spectacular dramatization of a time better left to actual historical account, like the World at War episodes.
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