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HOLOCAUST: A Chilling Reminder
Review by Steven Acker (Published in the Capitol Reporter, Jackson, Mississippi)
Last week's presentation of Holocaust was one of the most moving and important shows ever produced for television. Although failing to attract the massive audience of Roots, the quality of Holocaust very nearly redeemed NBC for all its usual bad programming.
Both shows were similar in theme, exploring the attempted dehumanization of a race as revealed through the story of one family. But where Roots failed to adequately explain the motivation and rationale of its persecutors, Holocaust succeeded, and frighteningly so. Through the character of Eric Dorf, portrayed by Michael Moriarty (and based on an actual war criminal tried at Nuremberg), we saw a very realistic evolution from an intelligent young lawyer to political mass murderer.
It is precisely that transformation which made the film so engrossing. Despite all the literature and film dealing with the subject, one could never quite envision the monster as Man. Nor could one fathom what the concentration camp experience meant to its victims.
Within the holocaust depicted, there lurked perhaps a greater horror than the death of the six million. It was the preamble to their suffering, the simple process whereby so many human beings were divested of their humanity.
This process lent the film its chilling historic impact and its contemporary relevance. For the warning is clear: the degradation process is so simple and so easily duplicated that it could happen again.
In one of the most chilling scenes (and there were many), a group of Nazi bigwigs discussed their problems over a fine dinner. One of them remarked that they were "processing" 16,000 Jews a day…very hard work. Like a cowboy at a cattle drive. The sheer cold-bloodedness was enough to freeze the heart.
There are certain groups existing today in America — from Georgia to California — whose callous, contemptuous attitude toward ethnic and radical groups (or anyone else "un-American") resembles the attitude of those Nazis at dinner.
The members of these organizations love their God and love their children — just as Eric Dorf did. And for each member of these white power groups, there are perhaps thousands of others whose hate bubbles just slightly under the surface of their civil front.
What would happen if, for instance, the Middle East conflict got totally out of hand? A depression far more severe than any we have ever known is not inconceivable. Then would these preachers of racial superiority not have a ripe field for picking? Could not sane men once again transform themselves into genocidal maniacs?
After all, it was a great depression that gave birth to the rise of Hitler. And it happened only forty years ago. As Holocaust so clearly illustrated, it happened to people just like us —lawyers, bankers, architects, writers. The potential still exists should we forget.
Holocaust is important because it serves the function of art, as so beautifully stated by Karl Weiss: It reveals the truth.
As painful as that truth may be, it must never be ignored. We must remember.