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Czech Reality Show Recreates Life Under Nazi Rule, Sparks Controversy

A Czech TV show is making waves for its controversial format, depicting the brutal lives of ordinary people under Nazi rule. The reality show, titled ‘Holiday in the Protectorate’, features a modern family living in recreated conditions of the German occupation during the WWII. A prize money of 1 million Czech Krunas (over $40,000) awaits the family if they manage to survive the two-month ordeal.

The three-generation family was selected after rigorous auditions in which 200 other families participated. The show was recorded in the summer of 2014, and the 8 hour-long episodes will be airing from May 23 to June 13. Although the family participated in normal tasks typical of that time period, like harvesting crops or milking cows, they also went through wartime struggles like food rationing, frequent hunger, simulated air raids, intimidation by Nazi informants, and interrogations by the Gestapo.

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Photo: Czech TV

Old-fashioned furniture, period costumes, old currency, and professional actors playing German soldiers have contributed to the realistic setting of the show. The family was afforded no conveniences whatsoever: not even running water or a refrigerator. A couple of historians, psychologists, and an architect were hired to ensure the show’s authenticity.

Zora Cejnkova, the show’s director, said that she was inspired by the horrific wartime stories her maternal grandparents had told her. “I wanted people to see what hardships ordinary people had to go through to survive Nazi occupation,” she explained. “It was interesting to see how people make decisions under such psychological pressure, in front of TV cameras.”

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Photo: Czech TV

Unfortunately, not everyone shares Zora’s enthusiasm for the idea: The show has drawn severe criticism for trivialising the real tragedies of the time. Critics have openly questioned how audiences could possibly enjoy the reenactment of such a troubling period in the history of the world. “People know what went on and how bad it was. What are they going to do next? Big Brother Auschwitz?” a critic wrote.

“On behalf of my family I’m going to launch an official complaint,” wrote another. “The programme dishonours the memory of the people who had to live through those times.”

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Photo: Czech TV

“Fortunately for the family, they will not be treated like the 82,309 Jews who lived in the protectorate and were deported by the Nazis to concentration and death camps or were killed by Czech collaborators,” a Times of Israel columnist wrote.

“The point about the World War II period is that there was always a possibility of violent death for everyone, something that is impossible to replicate artificially,” added car designer Jan Kral . “‘Holiday in the Protectorate’ recreated some inconveniences of the Nazi occupation, but the real fear was death. The show replicates wartime living the way a Formula One computer game replicates being Michael Shumacher – you get everything except the risk.”

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Photo: Czech TV

But Cejnkova argued that she has tried to depict the period with the seriousness and respect that it deserves. “We are aware that it is controversial to return to so turbulent a period,” she said. “However, we believe that it is correct to attempt to do this, providing that certain ethical rules and historical reality are observed. Of course we cannot completely recreate the real danger, but the aim is to show life as it was, and if people re-live those times, perhaps future conflicts can be prevented.”

Would you feel comfortable watching a show like this?

 

The first episode of Holiday in the Protectorate was a pretty quiet one, with the participants getting used to their temporary home and daily chores, but things are expected to pick up soon.

Sources: ABC News, The Guardian