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story.lead_photo.caption TV legend Carl Reiner (Your Show of Shows,The Dick Van Dyke Show) is one of the veterans featured in the PBS special GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II. Here, Reiner, 96, shows off his dog tags (marked H for Hebrew) he wore during the war.

Why should we care about such ancient history as World War II? It started in 1939 and ended almost 73 years ago.

And yet, the war is a subject that never ceases to be fascinating. Gary Oldman just won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of British prime minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Dunkirk, about the miraculous British evacuation from France in 1940, was up for eight Oscars, winning three.

WWII action films such as Inglourious Basterds starring Brad Pitt get our hearts pumping, and many consider Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks one of the most inspirational films of all time.

Does Hollywood keep revisiting WWII because it was a simpler time when good and evil were sharply delineated? Maybe we always need heroes and there were plenty to go around back then.

Maybe it's because we won and clear-cut victories have been few and far between in the muddled times since.

Whatever the reason, our direct contact with WWII is rapidly fading. Most surviving American veterans are in their 90s and, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, number around 550,000. About 360 or so die every day.

All the above are reasons I look forward to every TV special dealing with WWII heroes and their struggle. PBS and AETN will air a compelling one at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II tells the inspiring story of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II, "fighting not only for their country, but for their beliefs and brethren across the world." The film is presented in honor of Thursday's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The little-known tale is told through the eyes of the servicemen and women who lived it. Theirs was a more personal fight -- not only against genocidal Nazi Germany, but also against anti-Semitism within the ranks and back home in America.

PBS tells us, "After years of struggle, they emerged transformed, more powerfully American and more deeply Jewish, determined to continue the fight for equality and tolerance at home."

The 90-minute film features more than 25 intimate interviews with those who speak candidly about the impact of their wartime experiences. Included are Army combat engineer Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein); former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was drafted into the Army; and Carl Reiner, the son of Jewish immigrants, who trained in the Signal Corps, but ended up traveling throughout the Pacific theater with the Special Services Entertainment Unit.

Also interviewed are the late Bea Cohen, who was a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in England; and Max Fuchs, who served in the 1st Infantry Division and was the cantor at a Jewish service in Aachen, Germany, broadcast by NBC in 1944.

It's not all serious. Reiner recalls one humorous instance in the barracks in Missouri when he thought he was dealing with "one of those anti-Semitic blondies."

"Ah'm frum Louisiana," the fellow recruit said. "You know a Jew named Goldfarb?"

"No, I don't," Reiner replied. "There are many Jews I don't know."

"You don't know Goldfarb?," the puzzled recruit asked. Then added, "He not a bad guy."

"That was the last thing he ever said to me," Reiner says, laughing.

America Inside Out With Katie Couric premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on National Geographic Channel.

This is a six-part series where Couric goes beyond "fake news" and sound bites to explore the divisive issues of the day.

First up is "Re-Righting History," with Couric traveling across the South to delve into "the highly controversial and sometimes violent battle over removing Confederate monuments and renaming buildings, schools and roads named after Confederate generals."

Future episodes deal with the #metoo movement; the heavy hand of political correctness; the growing anxiety of white working-class Americans; the rise of American Muslims and how they deal with prejudice; and the challenge of a country addicted to technology.

In Contempt, a new legal drama from BET, debuts at 9 p.m. today. The series stars Erica Ash (MadTV, Survivor's Remorse) as Gwen Sullivan, "an opinionated attorney working in the fast-paced world of a legal aid office in New York City." The series is rated TV-14.

• New Girl. The seventh (and final) season kicks off at 8:30 p.m. today on Fox. The series picks up about three years after we last saw Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Cece, Winston and Aly (played by Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris and Nasim Pedrad).

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

Style on 04/10/2018

Print Headline: PBS profiles WWII fighters with heritage at stake

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