Ken Burns documentary on the U.S. and the Holocaust debuts on Sunday

Here’s a new documentary I’ll be sure to watch:

A good documentary about a well-known historical epoch reaffirms what we knew. A great one reaffirms what we knew but, through relentless and surprising detail, makes the history new and relevant. The U.S. and the Holocaust, the new three-part documentary from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, makes the story of American reluctance to help the Jews bracingly new—and chillingly relevant.

The film, which debuts Sunday night on PBS, was born as part of a joint project with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It gives not only an honest assessment of the ways that President Franklin D. Roosevelt could have done more—but a frankly brutal look at a country that was deeply and relentlessly racist, jingoistic, and antisemitic. And it could not plead ignorance.

“We did know what was going on,” Burns says, noting that in 1933 alone, there were 30,000 newspaper articles sounding various alarms about what the Nazis were doing in Germany. But the American public of this documentary was not merely indifferent to Jewish suffering; it mostly thought they brought it upon themselves. “This is part of who we are too,” says Novick.

Burns and Novick go on to note in the video below about the chilling parallels between what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and what has been happening America at the time they were making this new documentary.

And just in case you thought the filmmakers view all this as ancient history, the film concludes with a sound-bite from Donald J. Trump and a montage of footage from Charlottesville and the insurrection of January 6, 2021. “It’s been frightening … to be working [on] this film and be immersed in that time period while these things were happening around us,” said Novick. We will all find out soon enough just how much history we’ve learned.

Some polls suggest that, as the generations which actually lived through the Holocaust die off, younger people — even many younger Jews — do not see the lessons of the Holocaust as readily as they might have otherwise having been around, say, grandparents with concentration camp numbers tattooed on their forearms.

Let’s hope documentaries such as this one help keep the horror alive and relevant.

I’m never shocked to find out any person is anti-Semitic

Anti-Semitism is one of those bigotries that is both widespread yet often runs under-the-radar in many people — until it doesn’t. Even in people who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as being anti-Semitic, it can rear itself when given half a chance. Usually it’s because someone Jewish — a banker, a lawyer, a boss, a co-worker — has done something underhanded that is then ascribed to their Jewishness. Catholics and Protestants as a whole are never made to answer for Catholic or Protestant bankers who are greedy and shifty.

Then there are the anti-Semites like Michael Bivens, a journalist who was discovered to be a hater because he confessed it to the wrong people:

A journalist who covered the 2020 Antifa and Proud Boy violence in Portland was arrested and charged with vandalizing synagogues and trying to set fire to a mosque.

34-year-old Michael Bivins was arrested on Saturday after he approached a TV station in Beaverton, just outside Portland, “where he demanded to speak to a reporter,” Portland police said. The station, KPTV, reported that Bivins confessed to reporters, who then called the police.

A station employee also told Oregon Public Broadcasting that Bivins was making anti-Semitic remarks.

Bivins was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal mischief, third-degree criminal mischief, and first-degree arson.

The vandalism occurred at three synagogues and the arson at the mosque. Bivins allegedly broke a window at a synagogue, Congregation Shir Tikvah in northeast Portland, on April 30 and, on May 2 and May 4, respectively, put graffiti and threw a rock through a window, at another synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, in northwest Portland. He allegedly set fire to the mosque, the Muslim Community Center of Portland.

I’ve read through some of Bevins’ articles and I see no red flags. Which only goes to show that you never can tell with anti-Semitism.