"Hitler's Children" review – Posted in "Yedioth Ahronoth" by Itay Segal May 2nd 2011
Children of Nobody
The decision to embed "Hitler's Children" in the middle of the evening of Holocaust Memorial Day broadcasts is completely not obvious, not when the subject is a film bringing the story of the children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews of the biggest sadists who worked close to and were subjected to Hitler. Their descendants trying now to deal with the horrifying legacy their family left to them. Chanoch Ze'evi, who directed and produced the film, asks to present them as other victims, invisible ones, of an entire generation. This is a brave, bothersome, fascinating and of course original choice - making the watching of "Hitler's Children" to a pretty difficult experience. We used to see the Nazis as faceless devils. The exposure of their children and grandchildren reminds what nobody wants nor is willing to accept: Those people seemed like any other human beings. They had families. Children who played in the yard. They went each morning to work. In a job that was the extinction of a nation.
"Hitler's Children" - Normilizing the abnormal
The attempt to normalize the abnormal, to bring the demonic, the distant, the threatening, closer to the viewer – is the one that makes the Holocaust to something that can happen again. The people are the same people.
All the descendants interviewed for the film, feels that they carry on their back not just a notorious family name, but also the burden of the entire German society. All of them pay a heavy internal price for acts they had nothing to do with. Bettina the grandniece of Herman Goering, the Nazi air force commandant who changed her family name and displaced herself to the USA, reveals that she and her brother went through a sterilization surgery "in order to not keep producing more Goerings" - "To cut the line of Goering…" Katrin the grandniece of Heinrich Himmler, the S.S and Gestapo commandant, and the one executed the "Final Solution" admits she lives in great shame and for years didn't speak German outside of Germany. Her marriage to an Israeli man, the son of Holocaust survivors, brought to a complete disconnection from her family. Niklas (The son of Hans Frank, the governor of occupied Poland, who was responsible for the Ghettos and the concentration camps) travels around German schools, reads from his books and spreads his hate toward his parents. Monika (The daughter of Amon Göth, the sadist commandant of Płaszów
camp) tells about severe beatings she got from her mother when she dared asking how many Jews her father killed.
The peak of the film is the visit of Rainer Hoess in Auschwitz death camp, over which his grandfather, Rudolf Hoess, commanded. Hoess, the grandson, lives with the feeling that his essence of existence is "to carry the guilt, the burden, the shame" – all the things his grandfather should have done. The impact of the disclosure that his father's house, in which he is visiting for the first time, was placed few meters from the gas chambers, is well seen in his shocked face. Later, when Hoess joins the lecture of Israeli school students visiting Auschwitz, he is asked to answer the audience questions. The stand is difficult for him. "Do you feel guilty for what your grandfather had done?", "Yes", Hoess replies quickly. Every additional word is unnecessary. "What would you do if you met your grandfather?". He directs his eyes and says: "I would have killed him myself". An Auschwitz survivor asks to hug him. Israeli students – grandchildren of holocaust survivors – approach and hug him as well.
Eldad Beck, "Yedioth Ahronoth" journalist who assist the film making and accompanied Hoess in his visit in Auschwitz, ends the film with a clear doubt about the tender Israeli jester the Israelis showed toward Hoess: "We have the need, because of the horribleness of the Holocaust, to find this story a happy ending, and those people (Hoess) give us the possibility. But not every story has a happy ending. And this specific story has no ending". This is maybe also the tragedy of the German third generation that "Hitler's Children" describes so well. A Generation that made no sin, but keeps paying the price. There are horrors that will keep collecting victims forever.