While America Watches

While America Watches : Televising the Holocaust

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The Holocaust holds a unique place in American public culture, and, as Jeffrey Shandler argues in this text, it is television, more than any other medium, that has brought the Holocaust into our homes, our hearts, and our minds. Much has been written about Holocaust film and literature, and yet the medium that brings the subject to most people - television - has been largely neglected. Now Shandler provides an account of how television has familiarized the American people with the Holocaust. He starts with wartime newsreels of liberated concentration camps, showing how they set the moral tone for viewing scenes of genocide, and then moves to television to explain how the Holocaust and the Holocaust survivor have gained stature as moral symbols in American culture. From early teleplays to coverage of the Eichmann trial and the Holocaust mini-series, as well as documentaries, popular series such as "All in the Family" and "Star Trek", and news reports of interethnic violence in Bosnia, Shandler offers a tour of television history.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 165.1 x 236.22 x 33.02mm | 657.71g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 27 halftones, 2 line drawings, bibliography
  • 0195119355
  • 9780195119350

Review Text

This first book by Shandler, a teaching fellow in New York University's department of Judaic studies, examines one of the few relatively neglected areas of Holocaust scholarship - its treatment by American television. In recent years, as Shandler notes in his introduction, there's been much discussion of the Holocaust's so-called Americanization. With the success of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the subsequent opening of several others around the US, questions of cultural appropriation and appropriateness have emerged prominently in the debate over how best to remember the mass murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. Ironically, Shandler observes at several pivotal moments, the history of television and the history of Holocaust memory coincide rather neatly. He traces three stages in television's coverage of the Holocaust: the "[creation] of the viewer" in the 1950s; the emergence of the Holocaust as an important topic in the '60s and '70s, spurred by the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961 and by the TV miniseries Holocaust in 1978; and the 1980s and '90s, when the subject has come to seem almost omnipresent on our various screens. Shandler's most valuable contribution is that he has reviewed hours of footage until now unavailable to all but scholars. He recounts TV dramas from the 1950s, hosted or directed by such luminaries of the medium as Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky, and offers tantalizing bits of trivia, such as the fact that '30s radical documentarian Leo Hurwitz directed American television coverage of the Eichmann trial. But the author seems curiously reluctant to take a position on many key issues, and he allows quotations from others to speak in a tediously balanced fashion. And his writing is the dullest and deadest of academic prose. A regrettably lifeless examination of a potentially charged topic. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Jeffrey Shandler

Jeffrey Shandler is currently a Dorot Teaching Fellow in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He lives in New York City.show more

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