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PBS documentary examines the U.S. response to the Holocaust

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The New York Public Library
Immigrants seated on long benches at Ellis Island.

A new documentary about America’s response to the Holocaust premieres on Sunday evening on PBS stations including WXXI-TV.

The U.S. and the Holocaust, is a three-part, 6-hour series by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein. It examines the response by the United States to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the 20th century.

The series looks into government and public attitudes, bureaucratic red tape facing potential refugees and restrictive quota laws.

Monica Gebell is Director of Community Relations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, and she also has worked with the federation on Holocaust Awareness and education.

She said that the new documentary is timely, because of the current rise in antisemitism and how that relates to forces in play during the Holocaust.

“What would we do, if this were us being forced to act?, “ asked Gebell. “Would we do the right thing and speak up? What is the right way to speak up? And how is it that a Holocaust ever happened, if so many people are willing to say, well, we speak up for human rights?”

Gebell added that no matter how much historians have already written about the Holocaust, it is necessary to continue to analyze what happened to try and prevent something similar from happening again.

“It’s important that we revisit the information, because the fact of the matter is not any single one of us, even the historians, really understand the magnitude, and how multifaceted (are) the issues around the Holocaust and what led to it.

In a year-long engagement around "The U.S. and the Holocaust," WXXI is partnering with the Jewish Federation and Monroe Community College to continue the conversation through screenings and speaker events for the general public and an educator workshop to help everyone better understand the Holocaust and how it relates to events in our world today.

The U.S. and the Holocaust, episode 1, airs Sunday night, September 18, on WXXI-TV at 8:00 p.m. Episode one repeats on Monday, Sept. 19 at 9:30 p.m.

Episode 2 airs Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m., followed by episode 3 on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.