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In New Holocaust Doc, Ken Burns Traces Culpability of US Corporations

A Q&A with the famed filmmaker ahead of The US and the Holocaust.

relates to In New Holocaust Doc, Ken Burns Traces Culpability of US Corporations

Illustration: Claire Merchlinsky

What US leaders knew about the plight of millions of Jews escaping the Nazis during World War II—and when they knew it—is the subject of Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein’s searing documentary The US and the Holocaust. From 1933 through 1945, fewer than 250,000 visas were granted by the US as 6 million Jews perished across Europe; of his almost 40 films over the past 40 years for PBS, Burns has said he’ll never work on one more important than this.

It wasn’t just a few powerful men at the top responsible for the lack of aid, the film argues. Antisemitism was rampant in the US: Jews were barred from employment, education, and housing as leading capitalists such as Henry Ford called for their marginalization.