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In Brief

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Conspiracy (May 19; 9 to 10:30 p.m.; HBO) stars Kenneth Branagh as SS General Reinhard Heydrich, Stanley Tucci as SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, Colin Firth as State Secretary of the Reich Ministry for the Interior Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, Ian McNeice as Dr. Gerhard Klopfer, and David Threlfall as Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger, among the fifteen men who gathered in a villa in the suburbs of Berlin on January 20, 1942, to decide upon and implement a Final Solution to their Jewish problem. From the only extant copy of the minutes of the meeting that gave the world the Wannsee Protocol, the result of which was the Holocaust, Loring Mandel has written a script that's scary in its understatement and Frank Pierson has directed a television movie that's even scarier because it might just as well have been a board meeting of investment bankers, except that everybody smokes too much. Genocide here is business-as-usual, with logrolling, arm-twisting, chin-chucking, elbow-greasing, and smutty jokes. A discussion of sterilization versus extermination is no more fraught than, say, the back-and-forth in the inner sanctum of a tobacco company on how to fudge the cancer stats. When the day is done and snow comes down, Klopfer congratulates his host. Eichmann: "You certainly know how to throw a party.” Which led, of course, to . . .

Anne Frank (May 20 and 21; 9 to 11 p.m.; ABC) -- not the Diary, but written for television by Kirk Ellis from Melissa Muller's biography -- stars Hannah Taylor Gordon as the 14-year-old; Ben Kingsley as her father, Otto; Tatjana Blacher as her mother, Edith; Lili Taylor as Miep Gies; Brenda Blethyn as Auguste Van Pels; and a dozen able others. It seems to me impudent to essay yet another opinion on whether the diary belongs to a universal all of us, an aggrieved Jewish some of us, or Philip Roth, or Cynthia Ozick. And to comparison-shop among Annes (from Millie Perkins to Melissa Gilbert to Hannah Taylor Gordons) or to choose between Van Pels (either Shelley Winters or Brenda Blethyn) amounts to an aestheticizing that crosses the border into obscene. It should be enough that it's all here: before the Nazis came, during the occupation of Amsterdam, all the way to Bergen-Belsen.


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