The U.S. and the Holocaust


About the Film

The U.S. and the Holocaust is a three-part, six hour series that examines America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. Americans consider themselves a “nation of immigrants,” but as the catastrophe of the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, the United States proved unwilling to open its doors to more than a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of desperate people seeking refuge. Through riveting firsthand testimony of witnesses and survivors who as children endured persecution, violence and flight as their families tried to escape Hitler, this series delves deeply into the tragic human consequences of public indifference, bureaucratic red tape and restrictive quota laws in America. Did the nation fail to live up to its ideals? This is a history to be reckoned with.

THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST, directed and produced by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein, explores America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the 20th century. The series will air September 18, 19 and 20, at 8-10 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS stations, and all three episodes will stream the night of premiere on and the PBS Video app.

Inspired in part by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibition and supported by its historical resources, the film examines the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany in the context of global antisemitism and racism, the eugenics movement in the United States and race laws in the American south. The series, written by Geoffrey Ward, sheds light on what the U.S. government and American people knew and did as the catastrophe unfolded in Europe.

Combining the first-person accounts of Holocaust witnesses and survivors and interviews with leading historians and writers, THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST dispels competing myths that Americans either were ignorant of the unspeakable persecution that Jews and other targeted minorities faced in Europe or that they looked on with callous indifference. The film tackles a range of questions that remain essential to our society today, including how racism influences policies related to immigration and refugees as well as how governments and people respond to the rise of authoritarian states that manipulate history and facts to consolidate power.

Resources Include:

Episode Guide
Official Trailers
Behind the Scenes
TV Schedule
How to Stream

Classroom Resources:

The Catastrophic Impacts of Nazi Ideology
The Power of Media
The Diversity of Response
Symbolism of the Statue of Liberty
Immigration Policy and Jewish Refugees
Photography and Film as Historical Evidence
Americans and the Holocaust: The Refugee Crisis

Premiered September 18, 2022.

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