Metrofocus: September 14, 2022

“THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST”

Could America have done more as the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust unfolded in Europe in the 30’s and 40’s?  That is one of the central questions behind “The U.S. and The Holocaust” – a new three-part documentary series from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein.  The series examines America’s response before, during, and after Hitler’s rise to power.  It provides an unvarnished, revealing look at the historical record – and sheds light on what the U.S. government and the American public knew or didn’t know about what was happening overseas, as antisemitism escalated into mass murder.  Joining us, as part of our Exploring Hate initiative, are the co- producers and co-directors of the documentary Ken Burns and Sarah Botstein; and Rebecca Erbelding, a Holocaust historian and author who contributed to the series.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST, KEN BURNS ON THE NEW PBS DOCUMENTARY SERIES HE CALLS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF HIS CAREER.

WHAT DID AMERICANS KNOW ABOUT THE HORRORS OF NAZI GERMANY AND WHAT LESSONS HAVE WE LEARNED SINCE?

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪ THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION, AND BY -- ♪♪ ♪♪

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

COULD AMERICA HAVE DONE MORE AS HORRORS OF NAZIISM AND THE HOLOCAUST UNFOLDED.

THAT'S ONE OF THE CENTRAL QUESTIONS BEEN 'U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST' A SERIES THAT EXAMINES AMERICA'S RESPONSE BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER HITLER'S RISE TO POWER.

IT PROVIDES UNVARNISHED, REVEALING LOOK AT THE HISTORICAL RECORD, AND SHEDS LIGHT ON WHAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT AND AMERICAN PUBLIC KNEW OR DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING OVERSEAS AS ANTI-SEMITISM ESCALATED INTO MASS MURDER.

HERE'S A PREVIEW.

WE TELL OURSELVES STORIES AS A NATION.

ONE THAT WE'RE A LAND OF IMMIGRANTS.

BUT IN MOMENTS OF CRISIS IT BECOMES HARD FOR US TO LIVE UP TO THOSE STORIES.

THE HOLOCAUST WAS BEYOND BELIEF.

PEOPLE JUST DISAPPEARED.

THE PRIMARY GOAL WAS GET TO THE UNITED STATES.

BUT THE GOLDEN DOOR WAS NOT WIDE OPEN.

WE'RE CHALLENGED AS AMERICANS TO THINK ABOUT WHAT WE WOULD HAVE HAVE DONE, WHAT WE COULD HAVE DONE, WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DONE.

IN OUR BETTER MOMENTS, WE ARE VERY GOOD PEOPLE.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL THERE IS TO THIS STORY.

JOINING US NOW AS PART OF OUR EXPLORING HATE INITIATIVE, EXAMINING THE ROOTS AND RISE OF ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM AND EXTREMISM IN AMERICA, ARE TWO OF THE COPRODUCERS AND DIRECTORS 'THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST,' KEN BURNS AND SARAH BOTTSTEIN AND AN AUTHOR WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE SERIES.

WELCOME ALL OF YOU.

GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

ALWAYS GOOD TO TALK TO YOU AND SARAH AND REBECCA, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE FIRST TIME.

ASK YOU THIS QUESTION, HOLOCAUST IS A STORY WE NEED TO CONTINUALLY TELL, ESPECIALLY WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME.

WE'RE BEYOND 75 YEARS NOW FOR ALL OF THIS, AND IN SOME WAYS THAT PASSAGE OF TIME REINFORCES OUR NEED TO, AS IT'S BEEN SAID BEFORE, TO NEVER FORGET.

YEAH.

AND THINK IN AN AGE, JACK, OF DISINFORMATION AND MISINFORMATION AND DELIBERATE SKEWING OF THE TRUTH, IT BECOMES MORE CRITICAL, PARTICULARLY AT THIS JUNCTURE, 75 YEARS-PLUS OUT, WE'LL SHORTLY BE WITHOUT THE SURVIVORS TO TELL US ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE, AND IT BECOMES IMPORTANT FOR ALL OF US, FILMMAKERS, HISTORIANS, REPORTERS AND JOURNALISTS, CITIZENS AND SURVIVORS OR DESCENDANTS OF SURVIVORS TO SORT OF DELVE INTO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, HAVE AN HONEST AND DEEP RECKONING ABOUT THE QUESTIONS THAT ANIMATED OUR PURSUIT OF THIS FILM.

SIMPLE ANSWER IS NO, WE DIDN'T DO ENOUGH.

BUT IN ORDER TO ANSWER THAT FAIRLY, WE HAD TO REALLY DIVE DEEPLY INTO THE ANTECEDENTS IN AMERICA THAT HELPED CREATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES, FROM NATIVISM AND ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT TO RACISM AND PARTICULARLY ANTI-SEMITISM, EUGENICS AND WAY IT CONTRIBUTED, JIM CROW LAWS AND OUR OWN RESISTANCE TO HELPING PEOPLE ESCAPE NAZI GERMANY ONCE THE HORRORS WERE VERY CLEAR AND IT WAS CLEAR PRETTY EARLY ON WHAT WAS GOING ON, EVEN AFTER THE WAR TO SEE WITH GREAT SADNESS HOW LITTLE WE WANTED TO HELP FURTHER ONCE THE HORRIFIC FULL DIMENSIONS OF THE HOLOCAUST WERE REVEALED.

WE STILL WERE INTERESTED MORE IN TIGHTENING OUR -- SHELTERING OURSELVES, PROTECTED BY OUR TWO OCEANS, NOT DOING THE KINDS OF THINGS WE OFTEN TELL OURSELVES WE DO DO.

AS I SAID, IT'S IMPORTANT RECKONING WE NEED TO BE HAVING.

IN MY WORK, SARAH BELIEVES THIS AND LYNN DOES, WE WON'T WORK ON MORE IMPORTANT FILM IN OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES.

I'VE SEEN YOU SAID THAT BEFORE, NOT SAYING MOST IMPORTANT --

NO.

-- SAYING MORE IMPORTANT.

THANK YOU.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT'S SO?

WELL, I THINK THE STAKES ARE SO HIGH FOR WHAT KIND OF A DEMOCRACY WE WANT TO LIVE IN, WHAT KIND OF A COUNTRY WE WANT THIS TO BE.

TO LOOK BACK AS KEN WAS JUST SAYING AT THE HISTORY OF THIS UNDERLYING TENSION OF ARE WE A COUNTRY THAT'S WELCOMING, A LAND OF IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES, OR DO WE WANT TO SHUT THEM OUT, KEEP OUR BORDERS CLOSED.

AND WE LIVE IN THIS, AS KEN WAS SAYING, HUGELY VAST COUNTRY BUT PROTECTED BY OCEANS ON BOTH SIDES, AND SINCE OUR FOUNDING AND OUR INTRODUCTION HOPEFULLY LAYS OUT FOR THE AUDIENCE, THIS TENSION GOES WAY BACK INTO OUR FOUNDING, AND IS PLAYING OUT RIGHT NOW.

AND WE ALL LOOKED AT EACH OTHER AND DECIDED TO MAKE THIS FILM IN 2015, A LONG TIME AGO IF YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENED DOMESTICALLY AND AROUND THE WORLD AS WE SEE AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES AND FASCIST SENTIMENTS BUBBLE UP AGAIN AS THEY SEEM TO DO THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

FEELS ENORMOUSLY URGENT AND IMPORTANT.

AS YOU MENTIONED, THERE'S ALWAYS THE IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO TELL THIS STORY, AND BACK IN 2015 WE PROBABLY DIDN'T ANTICIPATE SOME OF THE THINGS HAPPENING NOW TO MAKE THIS TRULY THE RIGHT TIME TO TELL THIS STORY.

REBECCA, YOU PROVIDE THIS WONDERFUL AND INFORMATIVE VOICE OF HISTORY HERE.

HELP SET THE STAGE A LITTLE BIT.

BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS THIS FILM DOES IS MAKE US CRINGE ABOUT OUR HISTORY, AND MAKE US SAY REALLY, THAT'S WHO WE WERE, THAT'S WHAT WE DID BACK THERE?

LET ME ASK YOU TO HELP AGAIN FRAME THIS HERE.

GO BACK TO THE 1920s AND 1930s.

WE OFTEN HEAR THE NOTION OF ISOLATIONISM IN TERMS OF THE U.S., HOW WE LOOKED AT WHAT WAS GOING ON AROUND THE WORLD, ESPECIALLY IN EUROPE.

GIVE US A SENSE OF -- I DON'T KNOW IF PREVAILING ATTITUDE IS RIGHT WORD.

TELL ME IF THAT'S SO.

BUT WHAT WAS THE PREVAILING ATTITUDE IN THE U.S. DURING THAT TIME PERIOD IN TERMS OF WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND THE WORLD?

RIGHT, YOU CATEGORIZED IT AS PREVAILING ISOLATIONISM, AND THAT'S CORRECT.

AFTER WORLD WAR I, MANY AMERICANS WERE VERY CONTENT TO STAY ON OUR SIDE OF THE OCEAN.

IT'S HARD FOR MANY PEOPLE TO REMEMBER THAT THE UNITED STATES WAS NOT A MILITARY SUPERPOWER AND DELIBERATELY SO.

THROUGHOUT THE 1920s WE PARED BACK OUR MILITARY BECAUSE WE WERE NEVER GOING TO GO TO WAR AGAIN, SO WAR SPENDING DIDN'T MAKE SENSE TO AMERICANS.

EVEN IN THE 1920s AS FASCIST REGIMES RISE IN ITALY, AS WAR IN GERMANY -- AS WAR BREAKS OUT, JAPAN INVADES CHINA, ITALY INVADES ETHIOPIA, GERMANY IS RISING, AMERICANS AGAIN AND AGAIN, CONGRESS PASSES LAWS THAT ARE NEUTRALITY ACTS, SAYING WE ARE NOT GOING TO GO TO WAR OR DO ANYTHING TO LEAD US TO WAR.

THAT ISOLATIONISM DOESN'T JUST MANIFEST IN LACK OF MILITARY SPENDING BUT IN NOT WANTING PEOPLE TO COME HERE.

NOT WANTING MORE IMMIGRANTS.

NEW IMMIGRATION LAWS IN 1921 AND 1924 THAT SIGNIFICANTLY CUT OFF PEOPLE THAT ARE COMING IN PART BECAUSE WE CONSIDER THEM RACIALLY, RELIGIOUSLY UNDESIRABLE AND THEY'RE COMING FROM PLACES WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE TIES.

KLAN RISES AGAIN IN 1920s, AND THEIR MOTTO IS 100% AMERICANS.

INTERESTING TO TALK ABOUT THAT, SURPRISING THINGS THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW, THERE WERE 33 STATES, TALKED ABOUT IN THE FILM, THAT HAD FORCED STERILIZATION LAWS AND YOU SAY HOW CAN THAT BE POSSIBLE, ALLOWED?

U.S. SUPREME COURT PUT STAMP OF APPROVAL, BUCK VS. BELL IN VIRGINIA, IN REGARD TO FORCED STERILIZATION, U.S. SUPREME COURT SAID WE'RE OKAY WITH THAT.

AND CONTINUED AFTER THE WAR.

LAST OF THE LAWS WENT OFF THE BOOKS JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, JACK.

THAT'S FRIGHTENING.

THAT'S THE TERRIFYING THING.

WHAT HAPPENS IS WE TEND TO IN OUR CONSIDERATION OF HISTORY, VERY UNDERSTANDABLE WHY GIVEN THE STRENGTHS OF THE UNITED STATES, WE TEND TO SORT OF SEPARATE OUT AND WE SEE THIS NOW KIND OF BEING LEGISLATED, WE CAN'T TELL UNCOMFORTABLE PARTS OF OUR PAST, WE CAN ONLY CELEBRATE, A SANITIZED, MADISON AVENUE VERSION OF WHO WE'VE BEEN, AND WHO WE'VE BEEN HAS HAD EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENTS FOR THE UNITED STATES, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

BUT THERE'S MORE TO THE STORY AND WE'VE GOT A RESPONSIBILITY, ESPECIALLY IF YOU THINK YOU'RE EXCEPTIONAL, THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH, YOU HAVE TO BE HARDER ON YOURSELF THAN YOU ARE ON ANYBODY ELSE AND HOLD YOURSELF TO A HIGHER STANDARD, AND THAT REQUIRES A CERTAIN KIND OF DISCIPLINE AND DIFFICULT LOOKING, LIFTING UP THE CORNERS OF THE RUG TO SWEEP OUT SOME OF THE DIRT.

IT DOESN'T IN ANY WAY DIMINISH THE MAJESTY OF THE TAPESTRY, BUT YOU HAVE TO TELL THAT STORY.

AND THE STORY OF THE U.S. AND HOLOCAUST IS ONE IN WHICH A GOOD DEAL OF THE DUST COMES OUT, AND GOOD DEAL OF THE STUFF THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD PREFER NOT TO DEAL WITH.

BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO GET BETTER, ONLY WAY YOU GET BETTER IS WORKING ON THE THINGS YOU'RE NOT SO GOOD AT.

IF THE THINGS YOU'RE GOOD AT ARE GOOD, THAT'S IT.

ALL OF US ARE DEFINED AS INDIVIDUALS BY THE DIFFICULTIES WE'VE HAD, THAT'S WHAT MAKES US.

AND I THINK THAT'S TRUE OF COUNTRIES AND IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO LOOK VERY, VERY DEEPLY AT WHAT HAPPENED AND IN UNBLINKING, CLEAR-EYED THING.

WE'RE SO GRATEFUL FOR REBECCA TO HELP US ALL ALONG THE LINES, DON'T BE TOO CONSERVATIVE ABOUT SOMETHING IN ANOTHER PLACE AND GET THE SCHOLARSHIP RIGHT SO WE KNOW.

THESE ARE COMPLEX EVENTS, SOME OF THEM WITHOUT ANSWERS.

WE'VE MADE, SARAH AND I HAVE WORKED ON FILMS ON THE SECOND WORLD WAR, A LOT OF QUESTIONS WE WERE TRYING TO ANSWER HERE WERE BROUGHT UP, AND TRIED TO ANSWER THEM IN SOME CASES, BOMBING THE AIRLINES AT AUSCHWITZ, YOU DON'T HAVE A CLEAR ANSWER.

EVEN TODAY.

THE PRESUMPTIONS WE TURNED AWAY, THE U.S., THE ST. LOUIS, THE SHIP WAS TURNED AWAY FROM CUBA AND COULD NOT LAND BECAUSE OF THE IMMIGRATION LAWS THAT REBECCA SPOKE ABOUT IN THE UNITED STATES, AND FORTUNATELY TURNED BACK TO GERMANY, PASSENGERS WERE DISTRIBUTED AMONG WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, AND SOME OF THE PEOPLE DID DIE BUT WE WANTED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS THAT ARISE, AND PRESUMPTIONS OF ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE PART OF FDR AND GET TO ALSO LEARN ABOUT THE HEROIC EFFORTS OF JEWISH GROUPS AND CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS.

MAN WHO TRAVELS TO FRANCE TO GET OUT HISTORIC PEOPLE AND REGULAR PEOPLE WHO DESERVE TO LIVE AND NOT SUFFER FROM THE NAZI REGIME.

IT'S COMPELLING STORY, DARK STORY, BUT AT TIMES PLACES YOU CAN HOLD ON TO STORIES OF HEROISM, AND THE SURVIVORS THEMSELVES ARE THE MOST MAGNIFICENT PEOPLE WE HAVE.

THAT'S WHAT I WAS GOING TO ASK THEN, SARAH, THERE ARE VOICES HERE OF SURVIVORS.

THE FILM OPENS WITH A VERY POWERFUL STORY ABOUT IT WAS OUR NEIGHBORS WHO CAME TO CONDEMN US, PEOPLE WE LIVED WITH.

HOW AND WHY THAT HAPPENED.

SO YOU USE THE VOICES OF SURVIVORS TO TELL THE STORY, BUT HERE'S MY QUESTION TO YOU, YOU NEED VIDEO TO TELL A STORY.

MUCH OF THIS VIDEO IS TERRIBLY DIFFICULT TO WATCH, AND ANOTHER INTERESTING COMPONENT, MUCH OF THE VIDEO CAME FROM THE NAZIS THEMSELVES.

SO HOW DO YOU DECIDE HOW FAR DO WE GO IN TERMS OF THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, AND BY -- ARE WE EMBRACING THE VIDEOS THAT HAVE BEEN SHOT BY THEM?

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THOSE AS A FILMMAKER?

THANK YOU, THAT'S SUCH AN IMPORTANT AND CENTRAL QUESTION WE WRESTLE WITH ENTIRE TIME WE'RE MAKING A FILM LIKE THIS.

I THINK IF ALL OF OUR VIEWERS COULD SIT IN OUR EDITING ROOM AND HEAR THE CONVERSATIONS, LOOKING AT MATERIAL, THINKING THROUGH AS YOU'RE SAYING WHERE WAS IT, WHO SHOT IT, WHAT DO WE NEED TO GET ACROSS, THIS VERY FINE LINE BETWEEN SHOWING THE HORROR AND FRIGHTENING REALITY OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND, RESPECTING THE PEOPLE WHO DIED, THEIR FAMILIES AND MEMORIES, AND NEVER WANTING TO DO ANYTHING THAT IS SALACIOUS, THAT ISN'T RESPECTFUL TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING KILLED, AND I THINK THE DIGNITY AND THE ELEGANCE AND BRAVERY THAT YOU SEE IN THE MATERIAL OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING PERSECUTED IS OVERWHELMING IN THE SAME WAYS THAT YOU CAN SEE MUCH LIKE LYNCHING PHOTOGRAPHS FROM OUR HISTORY, THE ONLOOKERS WITH THEIR CAMERAS, THEIR CHILDREN, CASUALLY CHEERING THEMSELVES AS THESE HORRIFIC THINGS ARE HAPPENING.

SO I THINK WE DO TAKE IT VERY, VERY SERIOUSLY.

WE WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH OUR EDITORS, RESEARCHERS, AND ADVISERS, WITH AS KEN LIKES TO SAY, WARM BODIES IN THE ROOM, TO MAKE SURE WE'RE DOING BOTH THOSE THINGS, COMMUNICATING, SHOWING, BEING TRUE TO THE HISTORY, AND BEING RESPECTFUL TO THE PEOPLE WHO DIED, AND ALSO HOPEFULLY DESCRIBING FOR OUR VIEWERS HOW TO THINK ABOUT SOME OF THOSE IMAGERY.

AND THANKS TO EXTRAORDINARY INTERVIEW WITH TIMOTHY SCHNEIDER, HE HELPS PUT SOME OF THAT IN CONTEXT, DARKER MOMENTS OF THE FILM.

IT'S NOT TO PRIVILEGE THE PERPETRATORS, BUT THAT WOULD DENY YOU ACCESS TO THE PROOF OF A GOOD DEAL OF WHAT TOOK PLACE.

THEREFORE IT REQUIRES THE SUBTLEST AND MOST DIFFICULT AND HEART WRENCHING CALIBRATION TO MAKE SURE IT DOESN'T SPILL OVER IN GRATUITOUS PORNOGRAPHY IF YOU WILL OF THE HOLOCAUST, AND AT THE SAME TIME IS NOT SO FRIGHTENED OF THE HORRORS IT DOES NOT SHOW IT.

THIS IS A CONSTANT, SHOT BY SHOT, FOOTAGE BY FOOTAGE CALIBRATION.

I THINK THIS FILM IS MUCH MORE RESTRAINED THAT SOME OF THE FOOTAGE WE USED IN WORLD WAR II FILM, THAT DEALT NOT SIGNIFICANTLY BUT IN A MAJOR SCENE ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST BECAUSE WE WANT TO BE HYPERSENSITIVE TO ALL THE CONCERNS.

WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN, BACK TO YOUR FIRST QUESTION, JACK, WE FORGET THIS AND GIVE AMMUNITION TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN OR CONSTRUE THE RISE OF NEOFASCISM AS A POSITIVE EVENT IN COURSE OF WORLD HISTORY.

THIS IS THE TERRIFYING THING.

WHEN WE BEGAN THIS IN 2015, AS WE SEE IN EVERY FILM WE MADE, THERE ARE ECHOS TO THE PRESENT.

WE PUT OUR BLINDERS ON, IT'S HARD TO TELL A GOOD STORY, SO WE'RE FOCUSED ON THAT.

WHAT WAS ANXIETY PRODUCING FOR ME AND I'M SURE FOR SARAH, TOO, AS WE FINISHED THE FILM, EVERY SENTENCE WAS ECHOING WITH THE PRESENT.

AND WE DIDN'T THINK THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

YET WE COULDN'T DO ANYTHING TO PUT OUR THUMB ON THAT SCALE, JUST HAD TO SAY THIS STUFF HAS HAPPENED BEFORE, HAPPENED DURING, AND HERE'S OUR FILM, AND IT'S HAPPENING NOW, AS SARAH WAS SAYING AT THE BEGINNING, RISE OF FASCISM AND WAYS IN WHICH PEOPLE ARE EXCUSING ITS AUTHORITARIAN EXCESSES.

AND THAT'S JUST THE PATH THAT LEADS YOU TO DISASTER.

DEMOCRACY IS A MESS, IT'S COMPLICATED, IT'S HORRIBLE, BUT IF YOU LOOK BACK AT THE 20th CENTURY, DEMOCRACIES KILLED A FRACTION OF ITS OWN CITIZENS COMPARED TO AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENTS THAT IN CHINA, SOVIET UNION AND OBVIOUSLY THE NAZIS, THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE KILLED MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF THEIR CITIZENS.

REBECCA, WE TALKED ABOUT THEMES WOVEN THROUGHOUT THIS, ONE IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU CAN IT SHED LIGHT ON IT.

MOST PEOPLE EMBRACE A PREVAILING NARRATIVE OR MYTH THERE WERE ONE -- ONE OF TWO CIRCUMSTANCES, WE WERE COMPLETELY IGNORANT OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING OVER THERE OR WE WERE SO CALLOUS WE CHOSE TO IGNORE IT.

GIVE US THE REALITY OF THOSE COMPETING NARRATIVES.

ALWAYS LOVED THOSE ARE THE COMPETING NARRATIVES BECAUSE YOU DESCRIBED THEM PERFECTLY.

IT IMPLIES THAT AMERICANS ARE SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE AND YOU SEE THROUGHOUT AMERICAN HISTORY WE NEVER SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE, WE DEBATE ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME AND DEBATED ABOUT THE RISE OF NAZIISM AND ROLE OF RESPONSIBILITY IN THE WORLD AND WHAT WE OWE EACH OTHER, ALL OF THAT WAS DEBATED IN 1930s AND 1940s, THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE PERIOD.

GOING BACK TO WHAT KEN WAS SAYING, IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT THESE DEBATES AND HOW COMPLICATED THAT PERIOD WAS.

BECAUSE IT'S WAY TOO EASY FOR US TO LOOK BACK, IT WAS SO SIMPLE BACK THEN TO KNOW WHAT TO DO, REACTING WITH HINDSIGHT, WE ABSOLUTELY SHOULD HAVE DONE ALL OF THESE THINGS, IT WAS SO CLEAR, I DON'T KNOW WHY PEOPLE DIDN'T, IT'S TOO DIFFICULT NOW, I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO NOW.

NO, IT WAS COMPLICATED BACK THEN, PEOPLE DEBATING AND MAKING DECISIONS FOR THEMSELVES JUST AS WE'RE DOING NOW, AND ASKING SOME OF THE SAME BIG QUESTIONS.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET AT THE NUANCE OF THE PERIOD, COMPLICATIONS OF THE PERIOD.

AND VERY FERVENT DEBATES THAT AMERICANS WERE HAVING OVER WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY WE WERE GOING TO BE.

WHEN YOU WATCH ALL OF YOUR FILMS, KEN AND SARAH, WHAT YOU HOPE TO GET FROM ANY GOOD FILM, ANY DOCUMENTARY, IS A REACTION BY VIEWERS THAT SAYS I DIDN'T KNOW.

RIGHT.

I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT WAS SO.

AND IN WATCHING IT MYSELF, AND, YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY WHO IS -- I'LL SAY AMATEUR HISTORIAN, BUT TAUGHT COURSE AT YALE FOR 15 YEARS ABOUT FAMOUS TRIALS IN THE PAST AND WHAT THEY'VE TAUGHT US, YET I STILL FOUND MYSELF WATCHING THIS, AND DELIGHTED THAT I DID, CLEARLY LEARNING SOMETHING, SAYING I DIDN'T KNOW THAT, ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS.

DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE REFERENCE TO ANNE FRANK AND HER FAMILY.

TELL ME ABOUT THAT AND WHAT WE LEARN I SUSPECT MOST PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT.

I LOVE THIS QUESTION, GETTING IT MORE AND MORE AS PEOPLE SEE PARTS OF THE FILM.

WHEN WE STARTED WORKING ON THE FILM, IT CAME TO LIGHT THAT ANNE FRANK'S FAMILY AND OTTO FRANK HAD TRIED DESPERATELY TO COME TO THE UNITED STATES.

ANNE FRANK FOR MOST YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE WORLD IS ENTRY TO THIS STORY OF SECOND WORLD WAR AND PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS.

I DON'T THINK AMERICANS ARE EVER TAUGHT THAT THIS FAMILY TRIED TO COME HERE.

DOESN'T FEEL LIKE AMERICAN STORY TO KID IN EIGHTH GRADE READING THAT DIARY.

BUT IF HIS VISA APPLICATION HAD GOTTEN HERE, HE HAD VERY GOOD CONTACTS HERE AND WAS WELL CONNECTED IN WAYS THAT OUR GOVERNMENT WANTED JEWS TO BE TO COME HERE.

SO IT WAS INTERESTING AND UNEXPECTED FOR US AS FILMMAKERS TO SAY ANNE FRANK HAS AN AMERICAN CONNECTION, WE MIGHT EVEN START THE FILM WITH HER AND WE LEARN EVEN MORE AND I WON'T RUIN IT, BUT WE TELL HER STORY IN VERY IS PERSONAL WAY, FINDING PEOPLE WHO KNEW HER AND BRINGING HER TO LIFE IN HOPEFULLY WAYS THAT AMERICANS HAVEN'T SEEN BEFORE.

COME BACK TO SOMETHING YOU MENTIONED BEFORE, TALKING IN THE BEGINNING ABOUT THE ATTITUDES OF THE U.S. AT THE TIME, ISOLATIONISM, ANTI-IMMIGRATION, ANTI-SEMITISM, ALL PERCOLATING THROUGHOUT THE U.S. AT THE TIME.

THE FILM DEALS WITH THAT, UNVARNISHED LOOK.

AND ALSO LOOKED AT SOME OF THE FORCES COMPELLING ALL OF THAT, DECISIONS THAT TOOK PLACE IN TERMS OF NOT BRINGING IN -- EVEN THOUGH THE U.S. BROUGHT IN MORE THAN ANY OTHER SOVEREIGN NATION, AS YOU SAID, MUCH MORE COULD HAVE BEEN DONE.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT, WHAT ROLES DID THEY PLAY IN THIS?

YOU'RE RIGHT TO SAY, WE DID MORE THAN ANY OTHER SOVEREIGN NATION BUT IF WE DID 20 TIMES MORE, DOESN'T WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH, NOT PASSING JOB.

WE DIDN'T HAVE AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENT.

THERE WERE LAWS THAT HAMSTRUNG THE PRESIDENT, WHATEVER HIS IMPULSES, HE'S A POLITICAL ANIMAL, NOT GOING TO DO SOMETHING TO GET HIM IN TROUBLE, HE'S GOT A STATE DEPARTMENT AMONG THE MEMBERS OF WHICH ARE VIRULENT ANTI-SEMITES AT EVERY TIME TRYING TO STOP PROGRESS OF JEWS BEING BROUGHT TO THE U.S.

OR HELPING THE HOLOCAUST BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WILL EVENTUALLY DO MORE THAN ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION TO HELP GET REFUGEES OUT AND SAVE LIVES PERIOD.

IT'S A REALLY FRAUGHT AND COMPLICATED STORY AND NOBODY COMES OUT LOOKING 100% GREAT EXCEPT INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE DEDICATING THEIR LIVES TO SAVING PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS LIKE HEBREW AID SOCIETY, PEOPLE WORKING AND STRUGGLING.

BUT COMES BACK TO TENSIONS THAT REBECCA WAS TALKING ABOUT WITHIN THE AMERICAN POLITY.

WE ARE NOT ONE VOICE AND NEVER HAVE BEEN SINCE DECIDED THESE BRITISH COLONIES COULD COME TOGETHER TO TODAY.

TO TODAY.

WHEN FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WAS RENOMINATED FOR SECOND TERM AT DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION, GAVE THE SPEECH AT PHILADELPHIA, SAID BETTER THE OCCASIONAL FLAWS OF GOVERNMENT DEDICATED TO CHARITY, THAN CONSISTENT OMISSIONS OF GOVERNMENT FROZEN IN THE ICE OF ITS OWN INDIFFERENCE.

IF WE HAVE A THUMB ON THE SCALE, WE LIKE THE FORMER, NOT THE LATTER.

AFTER ALL THE YEARS, WE COULD TALK FOREVER ON THIS, AS ALWAYS WITH OUR CONVERSATIONS.

IT'S A FABULOUS FILM, ECHOS TODAY, YOU USED TERM, I THINK YOU TOOK FROM MARK TWAIN, HISTORY DOESN'T REPEAT ITSELF BUT IT RHYMES, WE SEE IT CONTINUING HERE.

I'M SORRY TO SAY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, MARVELOUS WORK.

PLEASURE TO TALK WITH ALL OF YOU.

BE WELL NOW.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION, AND

©2022 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489