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holocaust memorial

Photo of Memorial at Yad Vashem Holocaust
Museum by Eelco Böhtlingk on Unsplash

A new documentary about the Holocaust opens with photos of perhaps the most familiar faces from that dark chapter of history: those of Anne Frank and her family, whose story has been read or seen by millions around the world.

So why would a six-hour film that offers fresh illuminations about America’s response to the Holocaust begin with such well-worn images? The answer is likely to surprise even those who know all about the arrest and eventual deaths of Anne, her sister and their mother. Their deaths, the documentary argues, were also a stain on the United States and the foundational myth of its benevolent open door for “huddled masses” of immigrants and refugees.

As recounted in “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” Ken Burns’s latest deep dive into America’s past, Otto Frank tried desperately to seek sanctuary in the U.S. for his family “only to find,” the narration says, “like countless others fleeing Nazism, that Americans did not want to let them in.” Seeing no...

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