As many as 12 million West Germans appear to be watching the American television series "Holocaust" each night here, far beyond forecasts.
The nine-hour series tells of a fictionalized family from Berlin to portray the fate of some 6 million European Jews who perished during the Hitler years.
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt interrupted a budget speech in parliament today to commend the series. "Though some parts may be false," the chancellor said, echoing some of the criticism that has been directed at the dramatization, "the film is correct. It compels one to critical and moral reflection."
Opposition Christian Democrat leader Helmut Kohl said the series had provoked intense discussions within many German families and that for historical reasons people should be made aware of the power of totalitarianism on both the left and right.
According to statistics released today by metwork officials, 32 perent of the roughly 21 million television sets in West Germany were tuned to "Holocaust" Monday night when the first segment was shown. The figure increased to 36 percent as the series reached the half-way point last night.
With an average of 1.75 viewers per set, the television audience is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 12 million in a country with a population of 60 million -- including a total of about 35 million potential television viewers.
A number of callers, station officials said, were from Communist East Germany, where television sets can receive West German broadcasts.