The U.S. and the Holocaust

“It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death.”

Dorothy Thompson, Journalist, 1938

The Holocaust and the United States is a three-part series that tells the story of how the American people grappled with one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century, and how this struggle tested the ideals of our democracy. By examining events leading up to and during the Holocaust with fresh eyes, this film dispels the competing myths that Americans either were ignorant of what was happening to Jews in Europe, or that they merely looked on with callous indifference. The truth is much more nuanced and complicated, and the challenges that the American people confronted raise questions that remain essential to our society today: What is America’s role as a land of immigrants? What are the responsibilities of a nation to intervene in humanitarian crises? What should our leaders and the press do to shape public opinion? What can individuals do when governments fail to act?

Planned for broadcast on PBS in 2023, The Holocaust and the United States is directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein, written by Geoffrey C. Ward, story by Kevin Baker and produced by Burns, Novick, Botstein and Mike Welt. (6 hours)

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