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Simply taking a word that has such a strong meaning to so many people and making it the title of a film is a brave venture. The word “holocaust” means so much to so many people even if they weren’t directly connected to it by being involved or having ancestors that were. We’ve all heard the stories and have learned about it in school which gave us all an idea of how horrible and awful that time in history was, but it was never able to truly hit home. Putting it into a method where it can be seen before our very eyes makes it more real then any of us ever would have wanted to imagine.
Putting it into as simple terms as possible, Holocaust focuses on the Weiss family from Berlin who also happen to be Jewish. Dr. Josef, his wife Frieda, and their three children are all happy and content with their lives especially as the marriage of the eldest child Karl is going on. His marriage to Inga Helms is a joyous occasion that is soon marred by the incoming Nazi regime. Things are made even more difficult as the regime’s points of views come to the forefront tearing the families apart since the Helms are Christians. Inga’s brother joins the German army which makes matters worse since her husband and his family is now being abducted and separated from the general population. Things will only get worse from there as allegiances are threatened and lives are not only put at stake, but lost.
You know by now what the holocaust was and get the general idea of all the things that went on during the time, but you’ve never gotten to see it like this. The focus of the film is on the Weiss family, most of all, with other characters having bit parts, but I found myself never quite saw myself watching the Weisses. My eyes were on the actions going on while my mind was thinking back to how these horrible happenings had been thrust down upon millions of people and thousands of families. They were separated, gassed, tortured, beaten, humiliated, and even killed by a large group that didn’t like them simply because they were different. You can’t get much more descriptive then that to see this as what it is: racial violence.
Besides watching the Weiss family go through all these problems on one side of the holocaust, the mini-series also shows what it was like on the other side of it all. A lawyer and officer by the name Erik Dorf is on the side of the Germans and is the idealist behind the “Final Solution” which saw the murdering of millions of Jews. He was associated with putting it together, organizing it, executing it, and making sure it was totally covered up. What’s hardest to take here isn’t the great amounts of death that Dorf masterminded, but it’s the fact that he didn’t give a damn. I know that everyone has a conscience and it makes me wonder how people in jail can do some of the things they do, but this hits home a lot more. The guy knew exactly what he was doing and with no remorse whatsoever, watched as millions of innocents were slaughtered. This is real people. This isn’t just fictionalization. Let that sink in.
Holocaust is a mini-series that first aired back in 1978 and can honestly get quite slow at times if you aren’t prepared to sit for a while. It is a long drawn out process as most films about this time period usually are (see Schindler’s List), but it’s well worth taking it all in to get the full effect. It’s films like this that will make people realize what the struggle for power and supremacy can and will do if that is your ultimate goal. Is it really worth it? Is it worth killing people or humiliating them or taking away all their freedoms if it allows you to be on top of it all for a little while? And chances are that even if you are in support of one way of life, you’re not going to be the one leading it all. Then where are you? Right back where you started following orders and being told what to do. You’re just doing it in a smaller group now. Not very appealing is it? Not worth it either.
This mini-series breaks down the horrible things that went on during the holocaust, but doesn’t let them take center stage. Instead of visualizing what it was like as a whole, we are now able to se how it would be if it happened directly to us. Watching the Weiss family simply try to stay together and struggle with their beliefs while all the time merely trying to stay alive will have you wondering what it would be like if it was you. Seeing Dorf throw out his orders and follow through with them so callously makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I just don’t get what would make someone want to do all of those things to people he doesn’t even know. He is the on screen real life version of the devil, and he’s not even Hitler.
The film is shown in Full Screen format and shows its age so very much. Colors are rather dull and faded and it just looks old.
The film is heard in Stereo Sound and it is very dull and sort of echoes at times. You can tell how old it is because of exactly how it sounds, and it doesn’t appear as if anything has been done to upgrade it since the mini-series first aired in 1978.
Holocaust is going to be thrown into the same category as Schindler’s List in that I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but don’t let that make you think it isn’t good. It’s not the best Nazi regime film I’ve ever seen (God, that sounds weird), but it’s still a good one for anyone to watch. It is shown in five parts over the course of three DVDs and really does take a long time to view in total, and that’s not only because it is so long. Some parts just make you not feel like watching any more and force you to take a break, but you’ll want to go back and catch it in its entirety. There are no special features and I’m going to say that’s a good thing because what could you really want here? A behind the scenes featurette?
“This is how we made up the gas chamber and then burned the Jews. A little special effects fire and voila, they’re burning alive.”
Paramount presents Holocaust: Anniversary Edition. Directed by: Marvin J. Chomsky. Starring: Meryl Streep, James Woods, Michael Moriarty, Michael Beck, Fritz Weaver, and more. Written by: Gerald Green. Running time: 420 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: May 27, 2008. Available at Amazon.com