One of history’s darker chapters has left an indelible mark on filmmaker Sarah Bostein’s family. She showed correspondent Susan Spencer an old family photo. I died in every possible way, just as I did.”
So working on a documentary about the Holocaust with Ken Burns, famous for series like Civil War and Vietnam War, was a very personal experience for Botstein. Spencer asked him, “A lot has been written about World War II and the Holocaust. What made you want to see it again?”
“I believe that looking at it through the lens of the United States helps us understand the Holocaust itself in a much different and perhaps fresher perspective,” Burns replied.
Their film has been in production for seven years and will air on PBS later this month, titled “America and the Holocaust.” Burns, Botstein, and their partner Lynn Novick unravel in painstaking detail how America responded to this humanitarian catastrophe.
As one subject tells the documentary, “We tell ourselves stories as a nation. One of the stories we tell ourselves is that we are a nation of immigrants.” But in moments of crisis, it becomes very difficult for us to live through those stories.”
To see the trailer for “The US and the Holocaust,” click the video player below.
Burns told Spencer: It is an executive failure, a legislative failure, a media failure, a public failure. ”
In the film, narrator Peter Coyote explains:
The documentary claims, citing a shocking national poll. In 1938, just two weeks after Kristallnacht (the night of terror when the Nazis attacked and murdered Jews across Germany), only one in five Americans (21%) I replied that we should allow more Jewish asylum. The following year, that number dropped even further, to one in ten.
Spencer asked Novick, “Is this due to a lack of information?”
Novick replied, “You can’t blame the United States for not taking action because it didn’t know.” “As the situation got worse and worse, there was a lot of coverage in the newspapers about what Hitler was doing: deportations, mass murder, thousands of refugees trying to flee, lines at consulates. was known.”
But instead of opening the door, Novick says he slammed it tighter than ever. Renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh was the face: “He was an icon. He was a hero. They had a song about him. And he said the Nordic race should win.” He really believed in some kind of ugly anti-Semitic white supremacist ideology.He said, Americans applauded.”
Spencer said, “One of the things cited in this discussion has to do with the circumstances when all this happened. There was a Great Depression going on at the time. Isolation from World War I There were a lot of doctrines left. Do you think any of them would give America a pass?”
“You can’t tell America what happened and what you didn’t do,” Novick replied. “But I definitely understand the challenges and difficulties our leaders faced.”
Burns said, “We were not involved in the murder of Jews. We just didn’t do enough good people to help those on the edge of this cataclysm. It depends, it depends on us, be upon us forever.”
Strict restrictions on immigration have been in place since the mid-1920s, when quotas were set for each country. During the war, a State Department official named Breckinridge Long courageously enforced these restrictions.
“He was also working hard to cover up information about the nature of the Nazi threat to European Jews,” Novick said.
“Report of annihilation as a matter of policy?” asked Spencer.
Botstein said of the American bureaucracy, “We technically made it hard to get here – paperwork, visas, affidavits, sponsorships. Or I understand now. And you are now stateless. You are in a hijacked country. We made it very troublesome and difficult to come here.
Novick showed Spencer a case file that told the story of a World War II refugee desperately trying to reach America. Among them is the name of the house.
Botstein said, “When we started making the film, I realized that Anne Frank’s family wanted to go to America, but I didn’t know.
“I don’t think most Americans know that!” Spencer said.
Novick said, “We all know Anne Frank. Everyone knows Anne Frank. And if America had a different immigration policy, she would be here to talk to you now.” It teaches you something when you consider that there is a possibility that
“Do you believe that?”
“I absolutely believe that. I absolutely believe that, yeah.”
“That was after seeing the liberation of the camps and the horrific images of bodies piled up and emaciated people,” said Novick. “It’s a hard pill to swallow. A very hard pill to swallow.”
Spencer asked, “Are you worried that people will interpret this as indicting our country?”
Novick said, “I don’t think this is prosecuted at all. It really isn’t. I think we’re trying to tell the story of what really happened.”
“I’m not ashamed of America,” said Botstein. “I’m thinking about how I can do better.”
Spencer told Burns, “Finally, there’s this montage, but there’s no narration: Charlottesville, the Build the Wall rally, reporting the attack on the synagogue. What were you trying to convey with that montage? ?”
He replied, “Now all the elements are coalescing so that something bad happens again.”
“Did you feel an increased sense of urgency?”
“I feel a sense of urgency. We are not trying to equate anything with the Holocaust. Let’s stop.’ Come back there.”
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Story produced by Amiel Weissvogel. Editor: Carol Ross.