The U.S. and the Holocaust, a film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sara Botstein – Virtual Screener & Community Conversation

Apr 4, 2023

(Chester Springs, PA) – On Thursday, March 9th, from 7:15-9:15 p.m., Henrietta Hankin Branch Library in partnership with PBS Books and WETA will present a reprise of the Screener and Discussion event held in November of the PBS documentary The U.S. and the Holocaust, a film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein. This 3-part documentary explores America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history.  Americans consider themselves a “nation of immigrants,” but as the catastrophe of the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, the United States proved unwilling to open its doors to more than a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of desperate people seeking refuge. Through riveting firsthand testimony of witnesses and survivors who as children endured persecution, violence, and flight as their families tried to escape Hitler, this series delves deeply into the tragic human consequences of public indifference, bureaucratic red tape, and restrictive quota laws in America. Did the nation fail to live up to its ideals? This is a history to be reckoned with.

Join us to view selected clips from the documentary and then take part in a conversation with a panel of local experts. We are delighted to once again have panelists Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., and Jonathan C. Friedman, Ph.D., to lead us in an insightful conversation on core themes raised in the film, such as immigration policy, racism, isolationism, discrimination, and more.  Plus, for this event we have a third panelist, Sharon Sorokin.  At the end of 2022, Sharon retired from the practice of law and founded Bikabow Books, a small press publishing company. Bikabow Books’ first publication is Ziggy’s Potato, A Holocaust Story, written by Sharon Sorokin and illustrated by Helen Cann. Ziggy’s Potato is intended for ages 8 and up.

Rabbi Sussman currently serves as the Rabbi Emeritus of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA, after serving as senior rabbi from 2001-2022.  Rabbi Sussman, a specialist in American Jewish history, has written several books and numerous articles on the American Jewish experience.  Currently, he is working on a television documentary on the history of the Philadelphia Jewish community with History Making Productions.  He is also editing a collection of his sermons and essays, “Portrait of an America Rabbi,” and serving as Scholar in Residence at Philadelphia’s Holocaust Awareness Museum (HAMEC).

Jonathan C. Friedman, Ph.D., currently serves as a Professor of History, and Director of Graduate Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Chester University.  Dr. Friedman’s main areas of specialization are modern European, modern German, and modern Jewish history, although since finishing his Ph.D. he has broadened his areas of specialization to include LGBT history and the history of music and film.  Dr. Friedman has published numerous books on subjects ranging from the Holocaust to gay and Jewish performances. He is currently working on a monograph entitled Haunted Laughter: Comedic Representations of Adolf Hitler, The Third Reich, and the Holocaust in Film and Television.

Anyone who would like to view the full documentary in advance of the event may borrow a DVD of the movie through the Chester County Library System. PBS station members can view the documentary via PBS Passport as part of a full collection of Ken Burns films. 

To register for this special virtual event, please visit  For additional information, please contact Claire Michelle Viola, Reference Librarian at [email protected]. This event supports PA Forward Health and Civic and Social Literacies. 

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