Roosevelt House and the Jewish Studies Center at Hunter College are proud to to present a screening of an extended clip from the beginning of the new Ken Burns series The U.S. and The Holocaust followed by a discussion featuring co-director and producer Sarah Botstein in conversation with longtime Ken Burns collaborator, the writer of this and many other Ken Burns productions, Geoffrey C. Ward.

The U.S. and the Holocaust is a three-part, six-hour PBS series examining America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the 20th century. In the iconic and groundbreaking Ken Burns style, the series considers how the U.S.—despite considering itself a “nation of immigrants”—proved unwilling to open its doors to more than a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of desperate Jews who sought refuge during the Holocaust. Full of riveting firsthand testimony from witnesses and survivors who as children endured persecution, violence, and flight as their families tried to escape Hitler, The U.S. and the Holocaust delves deeply into the tragic human consequences of public indifference, bureaucratic red tape, and the nation’s restrictive quota laws. In doing so, the series poses a painful yet necessary question: Did America fail to live up to its ideals? This is a history to be reckoned with.


Sarah Botstein has for more than two decades produced some of the most popular and acclaimed documentaries on PBS. Her work with directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick includes HemingwayCollege Behind BarsThe Vietnam WarProhibitionThe War; and JazzU.S. and the Holocaust is Botstein’s directorial debut. Currently, she is producing a six-part series on the American Revolution and a project on Lyndon Johnson’s life and presidency. In addition to the television broadcasts, Botstein works on digital and educational initiatives in collaboration with PBS Learning Media and WETA-TV. She also helps to oversee content for Ken Burns UNUM, a web-based platform and mini-series that utilizes scenes from Florentine Films body of work to highlight historical themes relevant to our time.

Geoffrey C. Ward has collaborated with Ken Burns since 1984 and has been the sole or principal script writer for Huey Long; Statue of Liberty; Thomas Hart Benton; The Civil War; Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio; Baseball; The West; Thomas Jefferson; Frank Lloyd Wright; Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; Jazz; Mark Twain; Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson; The War; The Vietnam War; and Hemingway. Ward also wrote or co-wrote companion volumes for 10 of these series. An acclaimed historian, he is also the author of two biographies of FDR: Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt, 1882-1905 and A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, 1905-1928. Ward has appeared at many Roosevelt House public programs.


The U.S. and the Holocaust | Posted on November 30th, 2022 | Faculty Seminars, Public Programs