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This is Your Life was a reality-tv series broadcast on NBC from 1952 to 1961. In the series – that Time magazine defined in 1960 “the most sickeningly sentimental show on the air” – the host Ralph Edwards surprises a guest and proceeds to take them through their life in front of an audience including friends and family. During the episode aired on May 27, 1953, Edwards presented the story of Hanna Bloch Kohner, a Czech survivor of Westerbork, Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Her husband and parents had been murdered. “Upon arriving at Auschwitz, they handed you soap, and you went to the showers. Your shower had water, others were not as fortunate, like your mother, father and your husband, Carl. They all lost their lives in Auschwitz”, the host tells Hanna. Now, thanks to This is Your Life, she can finally meet her brother, living in Israel since the end of the war.

The episode is emblematic of the ascending Americanization of the Holocaust through popular culture in the 50s, especially in the form of domestic melodrama. As Edwards put it: “Out of darkness, of terror and despair, a new life has been born in a new world for you, Hanna Kohner. This is your life. Even as your heart goes out to those less fortunate than you, you rejoice humbly in the bounties America has given you. (…) To you in your darkest hour, America held out a friendly hand”.


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