Fifteen years before the release of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning epic "Schindler's List," American TV audiences were riveted, shocked and moved to tears by the Emmy Award-winning miniseries Holocaust.
Sunday through Thursday, the Family Channel, in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Week, presents the first national showing of the miniseries since 1979. Yom Hashoah, the Jewish holy day to honor victims of the Holocaust, was April 8.
"Holocaust" focuses on the intertwining lives of the Jewish Weiss family of Berlin and Erik Dorf, a rising member of the Nazi Party. The miniseries opens with the happy wedding of the artist Karl Weiss (James Woods), the son of the prosperous Jewish physician, Dr. Josef Weiss (Fritz Waver), to Catholic Inga Helms (Meryl Streep). Soon we're introduced to unemployed attorney Dorf (Michael Moriarty), whose family have been patients of Dr. Weiss for several years. Dorf becomes an aid to a top Nazi official and helps cause the demise of the Weiss family.
Over the years, Dorf fights an inner struggle between the loyalty he feels to the Weisses and his mandate to find new methods of eliminating the Jews in Eastern Europe. The tightknit Weiss family is faced with separation, despair, madness and death.
In 1938, Dr. Weiss is deported to his native Poland and his wife Berta (Rosemary Harris) soon joins him in Warsaw. The two are later sent to a death camp. Their daughter Anna (Blanche Baker) loses her mind after being raped by German hoodlums. And youngest brother Rudi (Joseph Bottoms) flees to Czechoslovakia and becomes part of the Jewish partisan brigade.
Not only was "Holocaust" a huge ratings success, it was nominated for 16 Emmys and won eight, including outstanding limited series. Streep, in one of her first major roles, won the outstanding lead actress in a limited series for her portrayal of Inga. Four years later, she won the best actress Oscar as a Catholic Polish concentration camp survivor in "Sophie's Choice."
Michael Moriarty, late of "Law and Order," received an Emmy for outstanding lead actor. Blanche Baker, the daughter of actress Carroll Baker, nabbed outstanding supporting actress. Behind the camera, Marvin Chomsky won for his direction and Gerald Green for his screenplay.
\o7 "Holocaust" airs Sunday-Thursday at 8 p.m. on the Family Channel.\f7