The Power of Stories

A long time ago, 1978 to be exact, when I was a teenager, I watched a miniseries on television called Holocaust. Now, this was the era of the blockbuster miniseries television events, and just the year before Roots had made its debut and become a cultural milestone. As little as I knew back then about the specifics of slavery, I knew even less about the Jewish Holocaust and Hitler’s attempted genocide. When I watched this program, a fictionalized story of a Jewish family and the atrocities they experienced, I was overwhelmed.  I remember being absolutely haunted by this program at the horrible suffering inflicted on these people depicted intimately in the enormous suffering of this one family. Of course, there were critics out there at the time, and yet this program sparked a national debate on the topic. People were talking. According to an article by the BBC, “86% of viewers discussed the Holocaust with friends or family after watching the program.” It was the first time a major mainstream drama had depicted the lives of Hitler’s victims.

Beyond its impact in the United States, in 1979 some 20 million people in Germany watched the broadcast, though Neo-Nazis bombed two transmitters to stop its transmission. The effect on its German audience was profound and is credited for turning the word “Holocaust” into a commonly used word in the German language. I will post the link below to the BBC article by Damien McGuinness and would encourage everyone to read it.

My point is that this story sensitized me to the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, and Roots sensitized me to the atrocities committed in the name of slavery. Stories have power. They are important. They can change lives and hearts.

I would encourage everyone to consider this when the topic of banning books comes up. Don’t censor voices just because they might reflect a different experience than your own. As human beings, we are all one family and should never try to silence one another.

Link to BBC article “Holocaust: How a US TV series changed Germany”

Holocaust 1978

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