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Series / Holocaust

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Holocaust is a 1978 American television miniseries written by Gerald Green, directed Marvin J. Chomsky, and featuring an Ensemble Cast that includes Meryl Streep, James Woods, Michael Moriarty, Joseph Bottoms, Tovah Feldshuh, Fritz Weaver, Rosemary Harris, David Warner, Sam Wanamaker, Ian Holm and Nigel Hawthorne. It was originally shown on NBC in four parts from April 1619, 1978.

Taking place over a ten-year span from 1935 to 1945, the series tells the story of two German families. One is the Jewish Weiss family, consisting of patriarch Josef Weiss, his wife Bertha, and three children (Anna, Rudi, and Karl) as well as Karl's gentile wife Inga. The other is the Dorf family, consisting of Erik, Marta, Peter, and Laura. Unable to find work as a lawyer due to economic problems, Erik Dorf joins the SS, and goaded on by his ambitious wife Marta rises up through the ranks to help plan out The Holocaust.

Holocaust is often viewed as a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Roots (1977), being another historical miniseries that attempts to depict a well-documented atrocity of the recent past viewed through the eyes of a family living through it, and even featuring some of the same crew, most notably director Marvin J. Chomsky. The series has also been widely credited with bringing the term "Holocaust" into popular usage to describe Nazi Germany's attempted extermination of the European Jews and other "undesirables".


  • All There in the Manual: Gerald Green, the writer and the screenwriter for the mini, later wrote a tie-in novel where we learn what happened to the characters after the film's end:
    • Rudi is researching what's happened to his family and reading Dorf's diary, he and Uncle Kurt have maintained a correspondence, Kurt Dorf was honored by the Yad Vashem as a righteous Gentile, and Rudi has re-married and has two young sons while residing in Israel.
    • Inga and little Josef have moved to England and maintained contact with Rudi.
  • Anyone Can Die: Oh so much; only a few of the main characters remain alive at the end of the series. And it's obvious that no one, not even children, are safe.
  • Awful Truth: Uncle Kurt Dorf informs Erik's family that their father was a murderer and that he was captured by Americans and killed himself. Marta will not accept that he did anything wrong.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Everyone's families have been torn apart by the war, yet Rudi and Inga face a brighter future ahead of them.
  • Book Dumb: Rudi; he's not great at school, but he is a cunning member of the Resistance.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Poor Anna. We first see her happily playing at the wedding of her brother Karl to Inga, then she was just a cheerful girl concentrating on her schoolwork and playing the piano with her mother. Later, the stress of her father being moved to Poland and Rudi running away gets to her and she is later raped by policemen. Her sister-in-law tries to get her psychiatric help after she suffers a breakdown because of it, only for Anna be sent to her death in Hadamar after the Nazis start killing people with mental problems.
    • Berta was the comfortable and wealthy wife of a doctor who cared for her family and played the piano while entertaining the optimistic belief that the Nazis' hatred of the Jews will blow over in a while. Later, she deals with her husband being deported, her parents dying, her oldest son being taken to Buchenwald, her other son running away, and her daughter dying. All this before she faces her inevitable death.
    • Karl was an ambitious and sensitive artist that loved his wife/muse; he soon gets tortured, his hands damaged, finds that his parents died, and only made it to the liberation of the camp.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Karl and Inga's son is named after Josef, the boy's grandfather.
  • Disease Bleach: Young Karl's hair is completely gray by the end.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • Dorf demands to know why Josef hasn't fled Germany (this while he was reprimanding him for treating gentile patients) since the Weiss family is wealthy enough, Josef merely tells him that if all the Jewish doctors fled, there wouldn't be anyone to treat the very old and poor.
    • He fails to understand a priest calling for mercy and tolerance for the Jews in his sermon, with the interrogated priest telling him that the war they are waging is on unarmed citizens and that he will follow his conscience and the teachings of Christianity, rather than the Nazis' dictates.
    • Mueller cannot comprehend why Inga wouldn't just divorce Karl.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Marta Dorf is noted by their former doctor Josef and many of the Nazis that associate with her husband as a beautiful woman, yet she did push her husband into the Nazi Party.
  • Fingore: Karl gets both his hands broken while in Thesienstadt by the guards for secretly drawing the real conditions of the camps (which the SS had kept from the visiting Red Cross).
  • Grandpa the Veteran: Berta's father proudly proclaimed in the beginning that he served in the infantry under the Kaiser, and even has the Iron Cross.
  • Happily Married:
    • Josef and Berta Weiss along with their son, Karl and Inga.
    • Erik and Marta are this to a lesser extent.
    • It isn't for long, but Rudi and his girlfriend Helena became this.
  • Heel Realization/Villainous BSoD: Dorf experiences this in the final episode. After his excuses are torn up, he looks at the atrocities he helped to create and finally realizes that he has become a monster.
  • It Gets Easier: At first, Dorf is unnerved at being involved with mass murders. He gets used to it though, with the prestige gained by his high position assuaging him.
  • Kick the Dog: Mueller rapes Inga and then mocks Karl about it.
  • Lovable Jock: Rudi, he is even asked to help smuggle some Jewish Greek children and is seen playing ball with them at the end.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The American captain more or less delivers this to Dorf after he's been captured and interrogated for his crimes. After this, Dorf takes a cyanide capsule.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Karl, the artist, is the sensitive guy to the more rebellious Rudi's Manly Man. Both have a passionate nature in common.
  • Sexual Extortion: Inga wants to help her husband Karl survive the concentration camp. She asks Mueller for help, but Mueller demands sex with Inga in return.
  • Skewed Priorities: Dorf of all people calls out Marta for being more concerned about his leadership and position than for the fact he's having women and children killed.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Dorf initially works for Heydrich because he can't find anything else, and he seems reluctant to commit to Nazi ideology. He gradually becomes one of the architects of the Final Solution.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Inga Weiss tells Karl she is pregnant before he is sent to Auschwitz (and he dies there).
  • Son of a Whore: Invoked. Nazi officials in Auschwitz make the Jewish prisoners call their parents pimps and whores while taking their personal details. Those who naturally object are beaten for it.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Berta Weiss despairs over being the pampered wife of a Doctor and of her background of wealth and servants, yet she is a kindhearted woman who enjoys the piano and cares very much for the children she teaches in the Warsaw Ghetto.
  • Turbulent Priest: Father Lichtenburg openly defies the Nazis and is sent to Dachau for all his troubles. For more detail, look up at Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Josef at the start was treating Marta Dorf for a heart murmur... yet later on, she and Erik refuse to have anything to do with him.
    • Inga's brother is rescued by Rudi Weiss and his girlfriend during the bombing of Kiev, but when they take him to his comrades for safety, he turns them in as Jews, all before he finally gets bombed.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Karl remembered Dorf as the son of the neighborhood baker whom he treated for the chicken pox. Then he became a Nazi who targets Jewish people like the Weiss family.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
  • White Sheep:
    • Inga comes from a family of Nazis and anti-Semites, yet she is Happily Married to the Jewish Karl and devoted to her in-laws.
    • Dorf's Uncle Kurt is this to a lesser extent, as he works in the camp trying to keep as many Jewish people alive as possible.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Inga, a German Christian whose family is aligned with the Nazis, gives up her freedom to be together with her Jewish husband Karl in a concentration camp even after being warned that it would be "unpleasant", and this was after she was raped just so she could have written correspondence with him.