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Documentary filmmaker Arthur E. Holch Jr. dead at 86

Arthur E. Holch Jr., whose work as an acclaimed television documentarian included "Walk in My Shoes," a 1961 film that some Southern stations refused to air for its frank depiction of the daily lives and frustrations of African-Americans, died Sept. 23 of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Greenwich, Conn. He was 86.

Holch had worked since the 1950s on films for network and cable television, addressing political and cultural themes as diverse as the aspirations of women and the reality of life under communist governments.

In 1992, he won a news and documentary Emmy as the producer of "Heil Hitler: Confessions of a Hitler Youth." The half-hour show aired on HBO and traces the story of Alfons Heck, who tells how he became one of 8 million young people who fell under Hitler's spell and fought for the Nazis during the 1930s and '40s.

One of Holch's best-known works came decades earlier with "Walk in My Shoes," an hourlong documentary that invited black Americans to speak about life under Jim Crow.

Holch wrote the script for the film, which features candid conversations with people from all walks of life. Featured are comedian Dick Gregory and NAACP lawyer Percy Sutton, a suburban executive, a Harlem taxi driver and representatives of the Black Muslims and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Despite the wide diversity of voices, they have in common an unshakable awareness of race and racism. In one scene, a garment-district worker wakes up in his Harlem home and then makes the journey to his workplace downtown. "A hundred blocks or so," he says in a voice-over, "you're in the brighter world of whites."

The movie, produced by Nicholas Webster, aired nationally on ABC.It "was nothing short of an unforgettable visit to the world of the Negro in the United States, a work of artistry, courage and power," wrote New York Times critic Jack Gould.

Nevertheless, stations across the South refrained from airing the film.

Arthur Everett Holch Jr. was born March 13, 1924, in Omaha. Raised in Denver, he graduated with honors from the University of Denver in 1944 and received a master's degree in journalism the following year.

Holch served in the Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Tokyo in 1951, when he married the former Ellen O'Keefe Hare.

In addition to his wife, of Greenwich, survivors include their seven children, Christopher Holch of Greenwich, Jeremy Holch of Brattleboro, Vt., Hilary O'Neill of Bay Shore; Milissa Laurence of Newton Upper Falls, Mass., Meredith Holch of East Hardwick, Vt., and Gregory Holch and Allegra Holch, both of New York; and seven grandchildren.

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