The US and the Holocaust Review

There is a famous quote about history. As cliche as it sounds, it is the truth

If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The new PBS three-part documentary series, The US and the Holocaust premiered this past weekend. Co-created and co-directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, actor Peter Coyote narrates the story of the near destruction of European Jewry from 1939 to 1945.

Within the film, there are interviews with historians, survivors, and readings from respected actors such as Meryl Steep, Paul Giamatti, and Liam Neeson. It does more than share what the events in our history books have already told us. It takes the viewer back in time to show what led the Shoah and repeats what most of us (hopefully) know. Though it’s been nearly a century since World War II, it is clear to me that we have not learned from the experiences of that generation.

The thing that hit me immediately is that there are far too many parallels to what is happening now both in the United States and around the world. Xenophobia and hatred have once again become the norm. We have a former President who has authoritarian tendencies, refuses to accept the results of the previous Presidential election, and has convinced many that he is the victim.

What made me angry was the spoken and unspoken complicity of a majority of Americans at the time. Though this country is supposed to be the land of immigrants and freedom. Instead, it became a land of isolation and hypocrisy. That hypocrisy was clear in the first episode when the connection was made between the Nazi’s racial laws and Jim Crow.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say that it is required viewing for every American.

The first two episodes are available for streaming on the PBS website. The third will air tomorrow night at 8PM.

P.S. After I watch or read anything about the Holocaust, I can’t help but think of what the victims or the descendants might have given to the world. The late performer Olivia Newton-John was Jewish on her mother’s side. Her maternal grandparents got out while it was still possible to do so. If they hadn’t, it is very likely that she would have never been born and therefore, not entertained multiple generations of audiences.

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Such Good Girls Book Review

1.5 million Jewish children were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. Only 10% of the European Jewish children who were alive before World War II survived.

The adults who helped the children survive had to resort to desperate measures.

R.D. Rosen’s new non fiction book, Such Good GirlsĀ is about several of these children who shed their Jewish identities during the war and became Christian. After the war, they found themselves conflicted between their Jewish pasts and their Christian present. In 1991, these child survivors were brought together in New York and began to examine their pasts and understand the measures the adults took at the time to ensure the children’s survival.

I enjoyed this book. Every time I think I know everything about the Holocaust, I learn something new. What I saw in this book was the love of parents who saw the coming storm and did what they could to ensure that their children would survive. Even if that survival meant changing everything about their child and possibly giving their child up to others to raise. I can only imagine the emotional trauma of a child who has been told all of their life they are they are one thing and then they are told they are something else.

I recommend this book.

 

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