The head of BBC television has said “there could not be a more important moment” to remind viewers about the impact of prejudice, as the Corporation prepared to screen a series of programmes marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The BBC’s extensive programming spans drama, documentaries and online materials and will include live coverage of the main commemoration event in central London, attended by dozens of survivors and high-profile politicians, on 27 January.
Danny Cohen told the Jewish News the national broadcaster had a track record of marking “important anniversaries” including those related to the First World war and the Magna Carta in recent months.
“Given the horrific events in Paris, given the rise in anti-Semitism in the past year in Europe, there could not be a more important moment to remind people of where prejudice, anti-Semitism and racism can lead. With everything going on in Europe at the moment I think a season programmes which reminds people of the impact of anti-Semitism can’t be a bad thing.”
Cohen grabbed headlines last month when he said, during an event in Israel, that the rising tide of anti-Semitism over the past year meant he had never felt more uncomfortable as a Jew in Britain.
The season will kick off next Tuesday on BBC2 with feature film The Eichmann Show, about the televising of the 1961 trial of one of the main architects of the Shoah, featuring Martin Freeman. “It’s a really important piece for us,” said Cohen. “It’s a very distinctive way of looking at Eichmann’s role in the Final Solution. It combines dramatic performances with actual footage from the trial.”
He also drew particular attention to the latest offering from acclaimed filmmaker Laurence Rees. Filmed in cities including Jerusalem, London, Krakow and Tel Aviv, it looks at the impact of the camps on six survivors of the camps on the lives of six survivors – Jewish and not – and exploring their challenges and triumphs.
This week, Cohen attended a screening organised by Jewish Care of a programme about the wartime experiences of 93-year-old survivor Freddie Knoller, another part of the special season of programmes.
Discussing the importance of the season to the corporation and him personally, Cohen said: “In my job I have to manage the boundary between what I care about personally and what the BBC should do as national broadcaster. I think this is one of those cases where what I care about personally and what’s right for the BBC come together very well.”