Hitler's Children [Import]
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The cast then are the descendants of Hitler's murderous group - now adults, forever tainted by the sins of their forbears, who explaining to us in penetrating eye contacts what it was like to be around the monster's court. Bettina Goering, Katrin Himmler, Eldad Beck, Rainer Hoess, Niklas Frank, and Monika Goeth are the cast members in this unforgettable film.
These six ordinary appearing people were not associated with Nazi leanings and they talk individually about what it is like to carry a name associated with the Nazi Party, being a blood relative to someone associated with hate and murder, being German at a time when that in and of itself was seen as being associated with Nazism, dealing with their family regardless of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, and if they feel any guilt associated with the actions of their infamous ancestor. Bettina Goering is the great-niece of Nazi official Hermann Göring shares her voluntary sterilization she underwent to put an end to her bloodline of horror (she now lives simply in New Mexico). Katrin Himmler is the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, second in command of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler and has written copiously about the evils of the Nazi regime. Rainer Hoess is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, creator and commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Niklas Frank is the son of Hans Frank, Polish Governor-General during WWII, he who was responsible for the ghettos and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Poland. Monika Goeth is the daughter of Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plaszów Concentration Camp. In addition to these musings, Hoess and journalist Eldad Beck - a third generation Holocaust survivor - travel back to Auschwitz to revisit their shared ancestral past. And Frank tells in his writings and in public speaking engagements, most to school aged children, of his past of being the direct beneficiary to many of the Nazi Party's favors which in turn is partly the reason he denounces his parents.
Many viewers will find hearing these tales (basically related in German) unsettling and that is the film's purpose. Never ever forget that period in history and yet realize the agony of the descendants of those beasts that hopefully will never be duplicated. Grady Harp, March 13
If you're Katrin Himmler, you'll marry an Israeli Jew and research and write a book about Himmler brothers' history, and if that makes you unpopular with other kin of the man who ran Hitler's SS, Gestapo and death camps, so be it. And you'll work very hard at losing your German accent, in hopes that when you go abroad you'll be mistaken for a Dane or Swede....
If you're Niklas Frank, son of Hans, the former Hitler-appointed Governor General of Poland, who ran its death camps, you'll check in with your brother before being interviewed for this documentary to make sure you're right that your parents never, ever, not even once, gave their kids a hug, a kiss or any other sign of affection, and your brother will confirm that. And you'll write a book about the Third Reich monsters who were your parents and give readings in schools where you know full well the teenagers there don't want to hear any of this, but you do it anyway....
If you're Monika Goeth, you'll grow up being assured that your father runs a "work camp" for Jews which, she was told, was "a good thing". "But why, if it's a work camp, Mama, are there old people and children there?" And "Has papa ever killed any Jews, Mama?" "Well, maybe a few," she was told. "What's a few, Mama?" she asks. Mama's answer? A whipping. Then came the day Monika went to see "Schindler's List." She couldn't get anyone to go with her--total fiction, they all said--so she went alone and found out to her horror who her father really was--the sadistic death camp commandant of Plaszow...
If you're Rainer Hoess, born into a family devoid of warmth, whose father beat him if ever he cried and whose grandfather ran Auschwitz, stashed his family in a beautiful adjacent villa with a vast green yard full of bikes and toys made by prisoners headed for the death chambers--some two million of them, you know the only way you'll ever be able to find peace of mind is to go see that Gate to Hell for yourself. You're petrified of doing that and letting visiting Jews know who you are--but you have no choice if you want to be able to live with yourself.
This documentary is presented as a mixed bag of excerpts from individual interviews with these five very interesting people. I find it somewhat puzzling that the filmmakers chose to jump back and forth and in and out of these very different individual stories this way. Maybe they were trying to give some sense of what it might have been like to have had all five together in one room sharing their stories in bits and pieces as people tend to do in a group setting. At any rate, I had to watch this documentary a second time to be able to mentally reassemble those bits and pieces into five distinct stories. But it was well worth it. Definitely a must see for this viewer. And you, too, I hope.
"Hilter's Children" (2011 German-Israeli co-production) brings the amazing story of several of the survivor's of Hitler's closest officers and confidants (Hitler obviously has no offspring himself). Just in the first 15-20 min. alone, we got to know Bettine Goering (Herman Goering was her great-uncle), Katrin Himmler (Heinrich Himmler was her great-uncle), Rainer Hoess (Rudolph Hoess, who ran the Auschwitz concentration camp, was his grandfather), and Monica Goeth (Amon Goeth, who ran the Plaszow concentration camp, was her father). Later on we get to know some others too. I was floored by all this. These are REAL people. The beauty of the movie is that the director asks a question (off-camera) and then lets the subject talk, and talk, and talk. There is no need to provide additional voice-overs with comments or admonitions, as the interviews speak for themselves. Best of all for me was the Hoess story. Rainer, who looks to be in his 40s, had never dared to visit Auschwitz although he had seen countless pictures of his family (including his dad as a young boy) living a sheltered life next to the concentration camp. Rainer's visit to Auschwitz will move, if not shock, you to your core. (I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz in 2009 and to state that it left an impact on me would be a huge understatement.)
The interviews deal with issues of guilt, remorse, fear of 'bad genes', how to try and live life anyway, etc. At one point one of the interviewees asks (either to her self or to no-one in particular) "where do you draw the line to love those parents, knowing the terrible things they have done?". Indeed. I know it's never going to happen, but this movie should be required viewing for all high school kids in this country when they study WWII. Bottom line: "Hitler's Children" is a MUST SEE documentary and I rate it 5 stars for historical and humanitarian reasons. (The DVD also contains the usual bonus shortie, in this case a 24 min. documentary from Israel called "Kun 65", focusing on a Holocaust survivor. I saw it immediately after seeing "Hitler's Children" and that was probably a mistake as I was emotionally gutted from that movie, and really couldn't get into "Kun 65".)
The filmmakers have assembled a handful of Germans with very recognizable and notorious names such as Himmler, Goering, Hoess, Goeth and Frank. These children of Hitler, so to speak, have had their own demons to reconcile and this is their opportunity to have a voice. The interviews are candid, sometimes unpleasant, but enlightening as well. Some are still actively pursuing answers, some are more settled. For me, the most harrowing stories come from the two men participating. Rainer Hoess is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, creator and commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He struggles to understand that his father lived adjacent to the Camp and how his family could be indifferent to the horrors right next door. His pilgrimage to Auschwitz was the emotional centerpiece of the film. Niklas Frank's father was responsible for the ghettos and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Poland. His anger led him to write a book about his family. He has been ostracized from them but still continues to pursue public readings of his work. These are the two stories that really resonated with me.
The movie, in my opinion, is a must-see for serious minded film-goers. Although elements are harrowing, this is still a survival story. It just has a different vantage point. Imagine if you're father was portrayed as a monster (by the brilliant Ralph Fiennes, no less) in "Schindler's List." Not an easy thing to watch! As with all Film Movement DVD releases, there is a bonus short (not with the on-demand option). This month's entry is a 24 minute feature from Israel called "Kun 65." It tells the story of a Holocaust survivor who the filmmaker discovered quite by accident. Although I wanted to embrace the short, it is rather amateurish. And instead of hearing from the subject herself, the narrative device is done in complete voice over narration. As we never hear the survivor's voice, the film loses some impact. Still a strong month! "Hitler's Children" is certainly a 5 star experience, with "Kun 65" at about 3 1/2. KGHarris, 3/13.
This moving documentary, directed by Chanoch Ze'evi, an Israeli, actually brings some humanity to the Nazis depicted here by depicting their family members. That doesn't lessen the horror of what they did but intensifies it, similar in some ways to Hannah Arendt and her "banality of evil." All of the stories told here are compelling, but I found the most moving one to be that of Niklas Frank, the son of Hans Frank who governed Poland during World War II. He has spent his life speaking out against his parents and the regime they served. Similarly, I was deeply moved by the journey back to Auschwitz made by the grandson of Hoess, the camp's commander. Armed with old photographs, he was able to identify his father's old playground, within sight of the camp's infamous front gate.
There are a number of scenes showing some of the family members holding talks and seminars with students and in one case coming face to face with a Holocaust survivor. There are other scenes depicting Goering's great-niece attempting to lead a normal life with her American husband in Santa Fe, serving German food to her guests, not in an attempt to disguise her heritage but in order to better come to terms with it.
The documentary is about 90 minutes long and is primarily in German, with English subtitles. I found it very moving, not just for the reminders of the Holocaust (which become ever more necessary as the years pass and some attempt to deny that it happened,) but also for the bravery shown by the family members who have spent their lives coming to terms with a great horror.