Thursday, December 13, 2012


Two recent documentaries focus on erased or repressed memory on different generations of Germans and Jews who lived through or were born after World War II.

THE FLAT directed Arnon Goldfinger

First seen at Sundance 2012

Arnon Goldfinger's Grandmother dies and her apartment in Israel is being cleaned out by her daughter and her grandson. The mother wants  to throw everything away. She loved her parents but has no desire to be reminded of this sophisticated, educated couple and their history. 

Her grandson (Armon) on the other hand is very curious to know more about the lives of his Grandfather who was a Judge in Germany and his wife.

Both were Zionist in the '30's and had emigrated to what was Palestine to begin the building of a Jewish State . Neither ever lost their identification with Germany as their homeland.

At the death of the grandmother her daughter and her son go to empty her flat in downtown Tel Avie The mother throws out and the stuff and the son retrieves. It is a generational story, One wants not to know what went on during the holocaust the other is curious  about his family history, a template of human coping skills with pain and emotional devastation. He discovers pictures and a news story of his grandparents in taking a high Nazi Party official on a tour of what would become Israel .

Two couples with a common goal: The Germans wanted the Jews to leave voluntarily  and the Jews wanted then to come to Israel. 

What unfolds is that this friendship is renewed after the war. The Israeli couple visits with the Nazi couple and the grandson is profoundly disturbed because he can not understand why, The mother does not want to know any of this. 

The son goes to Germany and is welcomed by the daughter of the Nazi couple. She believes her father, who after the war and vetted by DER SPEIGEL had became an executive for Coke Cola, had left the Nazi party in 1937 and spoke fondly of her father and mother's  friendship for the Israeli couple and remembers their visiting after the war. Continuing to not understand how his grand parents could have maintained this friendly relationship, the Jewish grandson uncovers with the fall of the Berlin wall and access to East German archives newly made available documents that reveal not only did their German friend not leave the Party but he hired Eichmann and worked as a high ranked officer in Goering's office. When confronted with this fact the German daughter can not believe it. 

The Jewish mother wants her son to stop asking questions. That;s the sequence of events in the documentary .But the feelings it raises and the way humans cope when confronted with truth as well as what is the meaning of friendship boundaries of loyalty are but some of the deeply moving and disruptive questions raised .

The Flat trailer

HITLER’S CHILDREN  director Chanoch Ze'evi

Hitler's Children is not based on the best selling book about the Bader-Meinhof Red Brigade. Rather despite Hitler himself having no children Hitler’s Children is a film about the descendants of the most powerful figures in the Nazi regime including Himmler, Frank, Goering and Hoess. They had families. Israeli first time director Chanoch Ze'evi bravely has made a nuanced documentary that brings alive both the guilt and shame of the descendants and the mixed emotions of Jews confronting them. 

To his credit he neither sensationalizes nor does he manipulate the audience into an easy reaction. Complicated as the emotions may be Ze'evi through direct shooting , little editing inside an interview and direct focus on the subjects on screen allows the viewer to see and hear the adult children talk. 

A difficult movie to watch but searing in its humanity, The critical scene is when a teenage Israeli girl on an educational trip to a death camp in Germany stands up and confronts one of the relative of the Nazi leader. Heightening the encounter is the presence  and participation of holocaust survivors of the very camp the sequence is shot in. Hitler's Children raised issues of genetics and historical truth as It role models how a documentary film can facilitate the speaking out of bitter truths.

Hitlers Children trailer

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