It was big-budget, American TV starring Meryl Streep. And in 1979 the mini-series Holocaust transformed how Germans saw their own history.
It brought the horrors of Nazi crimes into people’s living rooms and turned the word “Holocaust” into a commonly-used term in the German language.
This month the drama has been shown again on German TV – and it is as relevant as ever.
A third of West Germany’s population, some 20 million people, watched at least some of the four-part series in 1979.
Holocaust tells the story of a fictional Jewish family – Karl Weiss, a successful Berlin doctor, and his wife and children – charting their tragic journey from bourgeois affluence to the gas chambers.
A parallel story focuses on Erik Dorf, an unemployed lawyer, who is initially apolitical, but gets a job with Hitler’s SS and becomes part of the Nazi killing machine.
Social impact of seeing victims of Nazis
The series sparked a national debate. Surveys show that 86% of viewers discussed the Holocaust with friends or family after watching the programme.
Ten thousand Germans called the broadcaster WDR afterwards, many in tears, to express their shock and shame. In some cases former soldiers got in touch to confirm the details of Nazi crimes.