Particularly good performances are given by Meryl Streep as the aristocratic German wife to a Jewish artist, Karl Weiss, played by James Woods. (Did you know that Woods can be as good as a good-guy as he can as a bad-guy?) Karl Weiss is the eldest son of a prominent Berliner Jewish family. We follow him into the concentration camps, including Treblinka (the "show" camp) and eventually to Auschwitz (Oswiecim). Streep follows, sacrificing everything to try to stay with him, or at least near him, and to keep him alive.
Grandpa Weiss is a Jewish German patriot who fought for the Kaiser during WWI and is proud of it, and never can come to terms with the betrayal of his fellow patriots. Fritz Weaver is Papa Weiss, whose story takes us through the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto as he attempts to create some kind of order and safety in the midst of chaos and doom.
David Warner is remarkably sinister and urbane as Reinhard Heydrich, who came up with the legal gobbledygook to create the "Final Solution." Michael Moriarity plays Heinrich's assistant Erik Dorff, a former student and friend of the Weiss family. Moriarty chillingly portrays the seductive nature of National Socialism for the intellectual: He is given the choice of becoming a Nazi, and later Heinrich's assistant, or becoming cannon fodder on the Russian Front. He chooses the former, and goes about his task of carrying out the annihilation of the Jews, including his former good friends the Weiss', with cool logical efficiency. This may be Moriarty's finest hour as an actor.
Other actors of note include the actor's actor Ian Holm, former Brittish grand dame of the theater Rosemary Harris, Joseph Bottoms, Sam Wanamaker and Tovah Feldshuh.
This is entertaining history at its very best. Don't miss it.