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America and the Holocaust: A Filmmaker’s Perspective

 

By Martin Ostrow 

[Martin Ostrow has been an award-winning documentary producer, writer and director for public, commercial and cable television for more than 30 years.]

            As the producer and director of a PBS film on America’s response to the Holocaust some years ago, I was at first delighted to learn that Ken Burns has now likewise made a film for broadcast on PBS about how our country responded to the Nazi genocide. But some advance publicity for the broadcast raises questions as to whether his film will accurately portray key issues such as U.S. refugee policy and the failure to bomb Auschwitz.

              My film, America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference, was first broadcast in 1994 as part of the PBS history series The American Experience. I have been most gratified that it has become a staple for American history and Holocaust education in many secondary schools around the country. Ensuring that young people learn about these difficult periods in our country’s history is essential to our future as a morally responsible nation.

             When I set out to tell the complex and troubling story of our nation’s response to the Holocaust, I believed it would be most effective to chronicle those events through the experience of a single person. 

             I was fortunate to discover the moving story of Kurt Klein, a German Jew who immigrated to America in 1937 at age 17, and then spent several years struggling against a wall of Roosevelt administration obstacles that stood in the way of rescuing his parents from Nazi Germany. My film examined the profound social, political and economic factors that led the American government, along with much of American society, to turn its back on the plight of the Jews.

              America and the Holocaust explored the decisions that President Roosevelt and his State Department made to block news about the growing genocide, as well as to keep Jewish immigration drastically below the legal limits that the existing quota system allowed. … SOURCE

         

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