Hitler's Children Chanoch Ze'evi

Hitler's Children Chanoch Ze'evi
7
In concept, Chanoch Ze'evi's taboo, almost sensationalist documentary subject would seem easily exploitable, playing as either heavy-handed or tacky, if left in the wrong hands. He interviews the children of influential Nazi leaders, extracting their thoughts and verbalized experiences in being associated with the most notorious act of genocide of the 20th Century. Niklas Frank (the son of Polish Governor-General Hans Frank) educates German students about the horrors his father perpetrated; Katrin Himmler writes about being the great niece of Hitler's second in command; and Monika Goeth spends her time trying to learn and understand what her father, Amon Hoeth, did. Their interviews follow the standard issue documentary format, building in a linear, collective fashion, with each story rising to actualization and partial self-loathing imposed by the sheer nature of their legacy. But where Ze'evi's documentary distinguishes itself from a particularly compelling History channel special is in the inclusion of more challenging descendants, such as Bettina Goering, a woman who has decided to self-sterilize for fear that Nazi characteristics might lay dormant in her bloodline. Also married to a Jewish man, she discusses the horrific things that come out of their mouths when they fight, giving some insight into the nature of socially imposed self-hatred, something that marginalized people might relate to, albeit in a far less specific and loaded capacity. The most contrived aspect of Hitler's Children is the journey that Rainer Hoess (the grandson of Auschwitz guru Herman Hoess) takes to the concentration camp with Eldad Beck, a reporter and grandson of a Holocaust survivor. Though there's no doubt that the emotions captured on film are sincere, especially when Hoess speaks with Jewish youth genuinely curious about how he relates to their disposition, as Beck puts it candidly, there was something "too fast" and easily resolvable about it all. And, in part, this is what can be said about Ze'evi's mostly formulaic, but still substantially compelling, documentary: it touches upon the self-loathing and overcompensation of those tainted by a monstrous, culturally terrifying event, but is a little too tenuous to dissect just what sort of human behaviours — the evil of banality, as someone like Hannah Arendt might put it — led to such exclusionary tactics. If we look closely enough, we can see examples of these tendencies in modern society, particularly in the idealistic pursuits of the well intentioned. Also included with the DVD is short film Kun 35, which shows how a painting can tell a powerful story — this time, of a Holocaust survivor. (Film Movement)