Home / Entertainment / TV series "Holocaust" – How a series transformed the historical image of the German culture

TV series "Holocaust" – How a series transformed the historical image of the German culture


Forty years ago, the series "Holocaust" made many Germans aware of what happened during the Second World War.

It is considered a milestone in German television history: The broadcast of the four shared American series "The Holocaust – Weiss Family History" in January 1979. Today, the series is again shown on German television.

Nine questions and answers to the mini-series with the great reverberation.

How did the series arrive in Germany then? She was very successful. Around saw 20 million people on them ̵

1; it was about every third inhabitant of the Federal Republic of Germany. The TV audience is said to have crying heaps.

Why has the "Holocaust" had such a big impact? The series was an emotional shock to Germany. It shows dry, incredible facts at an emotional, personal level. Their content was actually school supplies. Not all Germans learned it at school.

What after-effects have the series had? It's hard to say. But there are theories that the series was involved in applying the not yet common term "Holocaust" to the Jewish genocide. In addition, an immediate consequence of the broadcast that Link will be opened in a new window is the cancellation of the limitation period for murder in Germany.

What is the story about? To each one a Jewish and a non-Jewish German family. The Jewish family Weiss is a family of upper middle class doctors, the German family Dorf is a follower family: the father is an SS member from opportunism.

  A scene from a concentration camp.
With aesthetics in a two-runner: scene from the series "Holocaust".


What happens to these families? In four episodes, the Weiss family goes almost everything that can happen to Jewish families at that time: flight, expulsion, concentration camp, torture and murder. The father of the Dorothy family, on the other hand, makes a career in the SS.

In what style is the series filmed? As a two-runner. The events are very condensed and take place in many places. This makes them emotionally understandable. Some historians and even survivor Elie Wiesel criticized this form: Such a serious subject could not be shown in a soap opera.

What was the ecosystem of the series in Germany? Discussions were extreme: Right-extremists tried to blow up the transmission tower before the broadcast to prevent the broadcast. In the live discussions that the broadcasters showed after the broadcast, thousands of viewers responded by phone. Many were shaken, but some also denied the contents of the series.

  A black and white image of Meryl Streep.
Worldstar at the beginning of his acting career: Meryl Streep as a Jew Inga Helms-Weiss.


"Holocaust" is an American production. How is it noticeable? You can see actors who later became known – especially Meryl Streep but also James Woods. Stylistically, the series is also strongly focused on American television aesthetics, for example due to the heavy density of the plot.

How does the series look like 40 years after the broadcast? The series has worked, finds SRF film editor Michael Sennhauser. "The Holocaust" strengthened the consciousness of history and gave people emotional access to the subject – not only in Germany but also in Austria and Switzerland. The fact that the series has a strong impact is also reflected in the fact that it is still being discussed today: the link will be opened in a new window Spiegel criticizes for example the link will be opened in a new window » ARD, as this does not show the series for the anniversary of prime time.

Shipping: Radio SRF 2 Culture, culture current, 7.1.2019, 18:50

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