During the ’70s, miniseries became the ultimate way to change the conversation about how Americans talk about events. When Roots arrived, people simultaneously became big into charting their ancestors and dealing with the impact of slavery in America. For most of the time after World War II, the movies and television focused on the battle between the Allied forces and the Germans. Viewers were given heroic tales that involves John Wayne and other stars heading across the Ocean to defeat the menace that was Hitler. The atrocities of the Nazis were an unpleasantry that would have probably offended the Hayes Code. So what went on inside the ghettos and the concentration camps was mainly overlooked. It was the battlefield that counted. That perspective began to change and the 1978 miniseries The Holocaust was part of it. For four nights, over 100 million viewers saw the plight of a family suffering through the Nazis’ diabolical plans for any Jewish people that weren’t going to flee.
The Weiss family seems to have it all in the Berlin of 1935. Dr. Josef Weiss (Marathon Man‘s Fritz Weaver) has a thriving practice. His wife Berta (Spider-Man‘s Rosemary Harris) is well connected. They have a nice family and their son Karl (Videodrome‘s James Woods) has just married Inga (The Devil Wears Prada‘s Meryl Streep). They don’t even care that Inga isn’t Jewish. The Dorfs are his patients and while he’s done amazing things for them. Things get tricky when Dorf’s son Erik (The Stuff‘s Michael Moriarty) moves fast in the Nazi party as an assistant to Reinhard Heydrich (Titanic‘s David Warner). He’s part of the Nazi’s Final Solution for people they do not consider part of the Master Race. The Weiss are on that list. Things get nasty quick with Weiss being ordered to not treat any Christians including his own house servants. Erik tries to give the doctor a hint that he might want to move out of Germany. He’s thinking it’s a good idea to relocate, but his wife refuses to budge. She will not be intimidated out of her home. This act of defiance is short-lived as the Nazis arrive and tear the family apart. The family goes through everything from Kristallnacht to the various Concentration camps that claimed the lives of millions of people that were Jewish, Slavic, gay, Gypsies or other traits the Nazis wanted to eliminate. The can any of the Weiss family escape the horrors of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.
Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was deeply offended by the miniseries since it wasn’t based on a true story. He and other critics complained that the miniseries trivialized and commercialized this nightmarish event. And yet Holocaust made this atrocity finally recognized across America in places that hadn’t any Survivors to remind neighbors of what can go wrong if the wrong people are elected into office. The cast does its best to treat this as a period drama and not a soap opera from World War II. They are serious in how they present the struggle to survivor. Over the course of the four episodes and eight hours, you feel for the Weiss family and get horrified at what people are willing to do to the their fellow humans in the name of a twisted dogma. Meryl Streep gives one of her earliest performances and you can sense she will give more in the future. Even though the characters are fictional, the events are real and led to people wanting to learn more about them. Other projects based on reality found an audience. Holocaust made people realize the body count that took place during World War II away from the battlefields.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. They have cropped the original 1.33:1 full frame broadcast version. The framing looks fine without anything awkwardly cut off in the transfer. The 1080p image looks sharp. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. The levels are fine although it does get loud during gunshots. The episodes are subtitled in English.
No bonus features.
CBS DVD presents Holocaust. Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky. Screenplay by: Stephen King. Starring: Joseph Bottoms, Tovah Feldshuh, Michael Moriarty, Meryl Streep, Rosemary Harris, James Woods, David Warner & Fritz Weaver. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 452 minutes. Released: September 24, 2019
Tags: Holocaust, james woods, Meryl Streep