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Tue, Sept. 20 at 7pm - The U.S. and The Holocaust, Episode 2

 A German policeman checks the identification papers of Jewish people in the Krakow ghetto
Courtesy of National Archives in Krakow.
PBS Pressroom
A German policeman checks the identification papers of Jewish people in the Krakow ghetto. Poland. Circa 1941.
The U.S. and the Holocaust on WSIU TV is made possible by local program sponsors Forbes Financial Group, the Sharp-Hundley Law Firm, VisitSI, SIU Department of History, Congregation Beth Jacob and St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST: A film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein is a six-hour series that examines America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. The film examines the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany, global antisemitism and racism, the eugenics movement in the U.S., and race laws in the American south. This three-part series tells the story of how the American people grappled with this crisis and how this struggle tested the ideals of our democracy.

Episode Two: Yearning to Breathe Free
(1938 - 1942) | Tue, Sept. 20 at 7pm
As World War II begins, Americans are divided over whether to intervene against Nazi Germany. Some individuals and organizations work tirelessly to help refugees escape. Germany invades the USSR and secretly begins the mass murder of European Jews.

Tune in Tue, Sept. 20 at 7pm on the WSIU stations: WSIU 8.1, WUSI 16.1, WSEC 14.1, WQEC 27.1 and WMEC 22.2 or access the WSIU local broadcast livestream online at pbs.org or via the PBS Video app. Watch with WSIU Passport.

About the Series
Inspired in part by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibition and supported by its historical resources, the film examines the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany along with race relations in America.

“History cannot be looked at in isolation,” said Ken Burns. “While we rightly celebrate American ideals of democracy and our history as a nation of immigrants, we must also grapple with the fact that American institutions and policies, like segregation and the brutal treatment of indigenous populations, were influential in Hitler’s Germany. And it cannot be denied that, although we accepted more refugees than any other sovereign nation, America could have done so much more to help the millions of desperate people fleeing Nazi persecution.”

“Exploring this history and putting the pieces together of what we knew and what we did has been a revelation,” said Lynn Novick. “During the Second World War, millions of Americans fought and sacrificed to defeat fascism, but even after we began to understand the scope and scale of what was happening to the Jewish people of Europe, our response was inadequate and deeply flawed. This is a story with enormous relevance today as we are still dealing with questions about immigration, refugees and who should be welcomed into the United States.”

“At the center of our narrative is the moving and inspiring first-hand testimony of witnesses who were children in the 1930s,” said Sarah Botstein, a longtime producing partner of Burns and Novick who is making her directorial debut on this film. “They share wrenching memories of the persecution, violence and flight that they and their families experienced as they escaped Nazi Europe and somehow made it to America. Their survival attests to the truth of the remark made by journalist Dorothy Thompson that ‘for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.’”

Immigrants waiting to be transferred, Ellis Island, October 30, 1912.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
PBS Pressroom
Immigrants waiting to be transferred, Ellis Island, October 30, 1912.

The U.S. and The Holocaust features a fascinating array of historical figures that includes Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Dorothy Thompson, Rabbi Stephen Wise, and Henry Ford, as well as Anne Frank and her family, who applied for but failed to obtain visas to the U.S. before they went into hiding. This unexpected aspect of the Franks’ story underscores an American connection to the Holocaust that will be new to many viewers.

Educational Materials to Supplement the Broadcast
The broadcast of The U.S. and The Holocaust will be accompanied by educational materials for middle and high school classrooms, highlighting recent research and perspectives. The materials, which were prepared by PBS LearningMedia in collaboration with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other leading Holocaust education experts, are available at the Ken Burns in the Classroom site. These materials include clips from the film as well as other resources that connect to its core themes, such as immigration policy, racism, isolationism, discrimination and more.

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