HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE WEEK--The history and horrors of the extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazis during World War II will be brought into focus on several programs this week as television observes Holocaust Remembrance Week.
Primary among them is "Shoah," the 9 1/2-hour epic documentary that will be presented Monday through Thursday evenings on public television.
With his monumental "Shoah," which means annihilation in Hebrew, Claude Lanzmann has accomplished the seemingly impossible: He has brought such beauty to his recounting of the horror of the Holocaust that he has made it accessible and comprehensible. It is not only a document of incalculable historical importance but also a great work of art. It stands as a testament to the human spirit and its capacity to endure in the face of an evil of such a diabolical nature and immensity of scale as to be without precedent.
So inspired a film maker is Lanzmann that he makes the unbearable bearable, and in doing so, offers the catharsis of classic tragedy. Suspenseful and compelling, "Shoah" is the ultimate mystery movie, its quest no less than an attempt to illuminate the darkest depths of the human soul.
"Shoah" contains no archival footage or stills of the Holocaust and its victims. Focusing on the extermination centers of Poland, Lanzmann, a veteran French journalist, interviews the precious few survivors of those camps, their administrators and those who lived near these rural sites.
"Shoah" is so powerful, so overwhelming an experience, you never wish to stop listening or to look away. It airs in four parts, starting Monday at 8 p.m. on Channels 28, 50 and 24, and at 9 p.m. on Channel 15.
On Wednesday night (at 10:30), Channels 28 and 24 complement "Shoah" with "Courage to Care," a story of non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue and protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.
And on Saturday (at 9 p.m.), Channel 28 screens "Genocide," the 1982 Academy Award-winning documentary produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that tells the story of the Holocaust. Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles are the narrators.
Another view is provided in "The Children of Terezin," which KCBS-TV Channel 2 is airing Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Terezin was a different kind of camp. Proclaimed by the Nazis as a "paradise ghetto," it was in fact a way station for the death camps.
Still, the Jews there organized a resistance movement and with supplies meant for propaganda artwork, they made secret sketches, stories, poems and musical compositions to document the surrounding horrors. They also created a clandestine educational system to educate the young.
Some of the artwork made in the camp is seen on the documentary. As one survivor says, "My father told me to 'draw what you see, for the time will come when people will need to know.' "