Once again, I have no idea how or when this documentary, Hitler’s Children, made its way into my movie queue. Because of my interest in WWII history, I’m sure I added it as soon as I saw it in some magazine. At this time, it is available both on DVD and via streaming.
This is a 2011 German language documentary, with English subtitles. Here’s the blurb:
The descendants of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle — Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Amon Goeth, Rudolph Hoess, and Hans Frank — come to terms with their infamous surnames and the role their families played in the Holocaust.
This documentary is not light viewing, but it provides fascinating insight into how the deeds of the father or grandfather or great-uncle has impacted later generations. The most profound portion of the film, in my opinion, featured Rainer Hoess, grandson of Rudolph Hoess. Rainer’s father lived in a villa adjoining Auschwitz. Here’s a bit about that portion:
Perhaps the central figure of the film, though, is Rainer Hoess, who is obsessed with a package of photos left by his father. They reveal the apparently idyllic childhood he enjoyed in the commandant’s villa adjoining Auschwitz. There is a photo of a gate that leads to the camp, “the gate to Hell,” Rainer calls it, a particular talisman for Rudolf’s grandson. “They must have looked through that gate,” he says of his father and his aunts. “What did they see? What did they know?” He goes to Auschwitz to find some kind of answer, accompanied by his friend Eldad Beck, the Berlin correspondent of Yediot Achronot and a third-generation survivor, many of whose family members were murdered there. In the course of their trip to the death camp, Rainer finally looks through that gate himself. He also meets a group of young Israeli students and, when asked what he would say to his grandfather today, he replies, “I would kill him myself.”
~ from a review in the New York Jewish Week
I wept during Rainer’s encounter with the young Israeli students, and I wept harder when a Holocaust survivor spoke some healing words to him.
We live in a day and age when too many people try to say the Holocaust never happened or at least who are appallingly ignorant about it. It boggles the mind. And it makes me afraid for the future, because when we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
I recommend this documentary, although know going in that it isn’t light entertainment.