The ‘Genocide’ episode of the landmark documentary series The World at War was ground-breaking in bringing the events of the Holocaust to British audiences when it was first shown in 1973. It is therefore fitting that a screening of this episode formed the basis of an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at the University of Bristol.
The screening was introduced by its Director Michael Darlow, who spoke about the importance of the episode and how it was made. After the screening he took part in a Q&A with Professor Tim Cole, Professor of Social History at the University of Bristol and author of several works on the Holocaust and its representation. Together they reflected on the impact of the episode, over forty years after it was first shown.
The screening was well attended, particularly by students of the University, and was followed by a lively discussion. Professor Cole was struck by ‘the way that students especially responded to the screening of something made prior to their birth, yet which still resonated.’ In particular, the audience was fascinated to hear Michael speak about finding and interviewing former members of the SS in Germany in the 1970s. Professor Cole also felt that the episode was eye-opening for ‘a generation used to seeing survivors as elderly’ who through the documentary were able ‘to see survivors who were middle aged telling their stories on screen.’ The screening demonstrated the lasting power of television in teaching about the Holocaust and the importance of the ‘Genocide’ episode of World at War in particular. Cole said: ‘Even though Michael's film was made close to 40 years ago the themes it evokes and the questions it raises (about e.g. action and inaction during genocide) remain highly relevant and generated considerable post-screening discussion.’
The screening was jointly organised by The Centre for Genocide and Holocaust Studies at the University of Bristol and DAVAR, The Jewish Culture Institute in Bristol and the South West. It formed part of the University of Bristol’s Past Matters Festival of History.
- If this example has inspired you to organise an event for HMD 2017, read our theme vision here.