Czech show relives Nazi occupation
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Czech show relives Nazi occupation

Critics ask whether ‘Big Brother Auschwitz’ is next

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Scene for Czech Television's 'Holiday in the Protectorate' reality TV show. (Czech Television)
Scene for Czech Television's 'Holiday in the Protectorate' reality TV show. (Czech Television)

It’s Frontier House, but with a bizarre twist. A new Czech reality television show not only has a family living like in the old days, but it also has them living under Nazi occupation.

“Holiday in the Protectorate” is catching some major flak from critics wondering what could possibly be entertaining about watching people being intimidated by (actors playing) German soldiers and Nazi informers.

The show, produced by Czech Television, puts three generations of a contemporary family on a farm in the area that was known as the “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” — effectively a majority ethnic-Czech puppet government set up and administered by Germany after it occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

The idea is apparently to see if the family can win a valuable prize by sticking it out under conditions similar to the privations of wartime for two whole months.

Fortunately for the family, they will not be treated like the 82,309 Jews who lived in the Protectorate and, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, were deported by the Nazis to concentration and death camps, or were killed by collaborators from Czechoslovakia and other countries. (Approximately 71,000 Jews from the Protectorate were killed in the Holocaust).

“People know what went on and how bad it was. What are they going to do next? Big Brother Auschwitz?” one critic was quoted by the Telegraph as having said.

The show’s director Zora Cejnkova defended it in the face of accusations that it dishonors those who actually suffered through the German occupation.

“When starting the project, we knew that it may provoke a discussion on how far such genre may go. I tried to show that period with utter seriousness and with respect for its tragic character,” she was quoted as having told the CTK news agency.

“We are aware that it is controversial to return to so turbulent a period. However, we believe that it is correct to attempt to do this, providing that certain ethical rules and historical reality are observed,” she said.

The Expats.cz blog for English-speaking Czechs and international expats living in Prague opened its entry on “Holiday in the Protectorate” by asking, “Has reality television gone too far?”

It looks like it just may have this time — at least in the Czech Republic, a country which is, according to Ambassador for Holocaust Issues and Combating Antisemitism Jiří Šitler, “proud of its friendship to Israel, its historically low level of anti-Semitism… and its respect for the fate of the victims of Shoah.”

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