Public-television viewers will be offered a concentrated history lesson during Holocaust Remembrance Week, with seven films and documentaries on Jewish death and defiance in the past and on genocides of the present.
Four main films will be aired in prime time by 365 PBS member stations, including KQED Channel 9, starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 11, with a British version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” sponsored in part by the Jewish Federations of North America.
The story of the high-spirited Jewish girl in hiding from the Nazis for two years in a crowded Amsterdam attic, while at the same time facing the highs and lows of adolescence and first love, is too familiar and revered to permit tampering with the plot. However, director Jon Jones does allow himself to vary the relationships among the key characters.
Ellie Kendrick (one of the young schoolgirls in “An Education”) gives us an Anne with all her exuberance, as well as occasional orneriness and chutzpah.
“Among the Righteous,” airing 10 p.m. Monday, April 12, documents the dogged search by historian and writer Robert Satloff to track down and verify any instances in which Arabs aided their Jewish neighbors while Hitler’s Afrika Corps swept across North Africa.
Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, embarked on his quest after noticing during a visit to Yad Vashem that not a single Arab was listed among the Christians and mainly Albanian Muslims who sheltered or saved Jews during the Holocaust.
His research turned up evidence of 100 forced labor and concentration camps in Tunisia and Morocco, one so notorious it was known as “Buchenwald in the desert.”
Satloff finds his hero in Khaled Abdul-Wahab, a prosperous Tunis businessman, who, like Oskar Schindler, entertained Nazi officials to cover sheltering Jewish families on his family farm.
There is also a brief testimony by Tunisian-born Sivan Shalom, Israel’s former foreign minister, on the help extended to his father by Arab friends.
“Blessed Is the Match,” scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, recounts the bravery of Hannah Senesh, a young poet and diarist. In 1944, Senesh joined an elite group of Palestinian Jews to parachute behind Nazi lines and rescue Jews in her native Hungary.
Senesh was caught, tortured and executed by the Germans, but her name lives on in the annals of Israeli heroism.
Turning from the horrors of the past to the bloody present (and future), historian Daniel Goldhagen (author of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”) premieres his book and documentary feature, “Worse Than War,” at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 15.
Looking at the sorry record of the last 100 years, Goldhagen counts 100 million civilians, mostly women and children, killed in genocides in Turkey, Ukraine, Nazi-occupied Europe, China, Cambodia, and on to Guatemala, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.
That staggering figure, he says, exceeds all the military deaths in all the wars of the century.
Followed by a camera crew, Goldhagen last year went to 10 countries in Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union and Central America, interviewing survivors, perpetrators and families of victims.
Amid horrifying footage and testimony, Goldhagen tries to make some sense of it all, seeking the causes — and possible solutions — to prevent future ethnic cleansings or, the term he prefers, “eliminationism.”
Also during Holocaust Remem-brance Week, KQED will carry two more documentaries, “Holy Lands: Jerusalem and The West Bank” (8 p.m. Saturday, April 10) and “House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague”(10:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13), as well as a play-within-a-play, “Imagine This.”
The cinematic version of a recent London stage musical, “Imagine This” is arguably the most startling and complex of the week’s offerings. It will air 8 p.m. Monday, April 12.
It opens with a group of bourgeois Jewish families in Warsaw enjoying an outing at a merry-go-round, when Nazi dive bombers interrupt the idyll.
Later, crammed into a ghetto, Daniel, the leader of the Jewish inmates, decides to buck up their spirits by putting on a play.
The presence of a flourishing theater, and even an orchestra and library, most notably in the Lodz Ghetto, is historically correct and was dramatized in Joshua Sobol’s memorable “Ghetto.”
For his production, Daniel chooses the last stand of the Jews against the Romans at Masada, with obvious similarities to the present situation.
In parallel, the characters as ghetto inmates and Masada resisters are faced with the choice of surrender or defiance.