Genocide (The World at War)

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The World at War episode
Episode no. Episode 20
Directed by Michael Darlow
Written by Charles Bloomberg
Drora Kass (research)
Susan McConachy (research)
Original air date March 27, 1974 (1974-03-27)
Running time 50 min.
Episode chronology
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"Genocide" is episode 20 of the 1973 Thames Television documentary series The World at War. It contains first-person testimonies concerning the Holocaust, and features film footage and photographs of the events described. The episode was written by Charles Bloomberg, and was researched by Drora Kass and Susan McConachy. Due to the seriousness of its contents, it was originally, and sometimes subsequently, screened without commercial interruptions.


The programme begins with Laurence Olivier himself giving a warning to the viewer about the disturbing scenes that are about to be shown in the episode. (This scene precedes the opening Thames logo, and does not appear in all subsequent broadcasts or DVD releases.) It then goes to the rise of a young clerk in the Nazi party hierarchy--Heinrich Himmler, who will eventually lead the SS, and the impression given by a young recruit at the time--Karl Wolff, who later became Himmler's adjutant. The episode charts the rise of the SS, the formulation of Nazi policy against the Jews, and its first atrocities, which tend to be messy and inefficient. So a method was searched for exterminating the Jews, which turned out to be gassing. The Wannsee Conference formulated this "final solution," and camps were built for this purpose near railway lines, especially one named Auschwitz. Once the mechanics were done, the exterminations began until the end of the war--with nothing done to stop it. Subterfuges were employed to hide the truth, including the infamous Theresienstadt camp.

The episode features interviews with three former SS members: Richard Böck, Wilhelm Höttl and Karl Wolff. Böck was a lance-corporal based at Auschwitz, and in the program he relates that he saw a gassing first-hand. Höttl was a major and SS administrator, and he testifies that Adolf Eichmann himself told him that six million Jews had been killed. General Wolff, the adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, recalled that he once accompanied Himmler on a visit to a camp near Minsk. Wolff narrates that Himmler witnessed shootings there, and became ill after being accidentally spattered during one execution.

Six Jewish Holocaust survivors also give their accounts: Rita Boas Koupman, from the Netherlands; Avraham Kochavi and Rivka Yosilevska, from Poland; Dov Paisikowic, from Hungary; Rudolf Vrba, from Czechoslovakia; and Primo Levi, from Italy. Paisikowic worked in several crematoria in Auschwitz, and he saw a number of gassings, including that of a group of Roma.

There is also an interview with Lord Avon (Anthony Eden), Winston Churchill's foreign secretary, in which he describes how evidence of the mass killings reached his office, and his statement to the House of Commons on the subject at the end of 1942.

The end credits include a notice about Richard Böck, in which his name is spelt differently. It states that:

The Producers wish to make it clear that former S.S. Lance Corporal Richard Böck has been exonerated by investigators of Nazi crimes at Auschwitz. He had been commended for steadfastly refusing orders to take part in the killings.

Evidence collected during the making of the episode[edit]

In December 2006, Iran's decision to organise a Holocaust Denial conference prompted one of those involved in producing the episode to write to The Guardian newspaper with some background information:

The news that Iran is to go ahead with a conference that will supposedly investigate whether the Holocaust actually deeply shocking. Thirty years ago when I was working on the Holocaust episode of the ITV series The World At War, my colleagues and I deliberately decided not to stop when we had gathered the first-hand witness evidence we needed for making the programme, but to gather more and put it together to be kept for posterity for use against the day when people or states claiming intellectual respectability might try to claim that the Holocaust did not happen. Sadly, it seems that day may now have arrived. We did not only collect the evidence of those who were victims in Hitler's Final Solution, but from people who held senior positions in its planning, administration and execution. All this material is stored in the Imperial War Museum, is available and will, I hope, now be used to show that those who would now deny the Holocaust happened are wrong...
Michael Darlow
Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts

External links[edit]