Inga (Meryl Streep) watches her husband being taken to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt.

In April 1978, the miniseries Holocaust debuted on NBC. Starring Meryl Streep, James Woods, and Michael Moriarty, the program follows a fictional upper middle class German Jewish family as it is torn apart and ultimately destroyed. Some critics deplored it for its soap operatic veneer, but viewers were not deterred; 44 million of them watched the four-part program in the United States. Subsequently, it was broadcast throughout Europe and elsewhere.

German television eventually aired the program, but only when it was becoming something of an embarrassment that they hadn’t already done so. Expectations for its success were low, given Germans’ exhaustion with public discussions on the subject. But the miniseries proved to be wildly successful, and prompted a new kind of engagement with this dark chapter in German history.

Thirty years after Holocaust was shown in Germany, Eric Molinsky looks at its impact there.

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