16 April marks the day in 1978 on which the 4 part miniseries, ‘HOLOCAUST’, premiered on American television. The nine and a half hour drama focused on two families, one Jewish, which is slowly disintegrated by the forces of the Third Reich, and one German, which rises and falls over the course the Second World War. The drama also includes the depiction of several real life historical figures such as Adolph Eichmann, Reinhardt Heydrich, and Paul Blobel.
One of the 120 million Americans who watched ‘HOLOCAUST’ was President Jimmy Carter. It was said that he was so deeply moved by the show that on May 1, 1978 he announced the creation of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust whose final report suggested the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum was planned and constructed during the 1980s and opened in 1993.
In January 1979, ‘HOLOCAUST’ was aired in West Germany. With an estimated viewership of up to 15 million households, the miniseries turned out to be extremely popular during its initial airing, leading to an increased public interest in the crimes committed during the Nazi era. After each episode of ‘HOLOCAUST’ was aired, there was a companion show where a panel of historians could answer questions from people phoning in.