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

adminJanuary 10, 2019


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

It is considered a milestone in German television history: The broadcast of the four-part American series "Holocaust – Weiss Family History" in January 1979. These days, the series is now shown on German television.

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

How did the series come up in Germany at that time? She was very successful. round They looked at 20 million people – it was about every third inhabitant of the Federal Republic of Germany. The TV audience is said to have crying piles.

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

What side effects do the series have? It is hard to say. But there are theories that the series was involved in enforcing the non-common term "Holocaust" for the Jewish genocide. In addition, there is an immediate consequence of the broadcast, Link opens in a new window cancellation of the deadline for murder in Germany.

What is history 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 family of followers: The father is an SS member from opportunism.

A scene from a concentration camp.

With the aesthetics of a soap opera: scene from the series "Holocaust".


What happens to these families? In four episodes, the Weiss family goes through almost everything that could happen to Jewish families at that time: aircraft, deportation, concentration camp, torture, murder. The father of the Dorf family, on the other hand, does a career in the SS.

In what style is the series filmed? Like a soap opera. The events are very condensed and take place in many places. This makes them emotionally understandable. Some historians and Holocaust survivors Elie Wiesel criticized this form: Such a serious theme could not be shown in a soap opera.

What was the echo of the series in Germany? The discussions were extreme: Right extremists tried before the broadcast to blow up the transfer towers to prevent broadcasting. In the live discussions broadcast by broadcasters after the broadcast, thousands of viewers answered by telephone. Many were shocked, but some also denied the contents of the series.

A black and white image of Meryl Streep.

World star at the beginning of his acting career: Meryl Streep as 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 oriented towards American television aesthetics, for example through the strong concentration of the plot.

How are the series judged 40 years after the broadcast? The series has worked, says 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: , Link opens in a new windowFor example, Spiegel criticizes, Link opens in a new window»ARD, because this shows the anniversary series not at peak time.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Culture, Culture current, 7.1.2019, 6.50.

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