Monday, August 04, 2014

Hitler's Children (2011)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many years ago, I was thinking about how uncommon Hitler is as a last name.  I’m not sure if people with that surname changed it to avoid the negative association or if it simply wasn’t that common to begin with.  I don’t imagine it would be easy to have that as a last name, even if you weren’t closely related.  People would probably look at you, too afraid to even ask.

Hitler’s Children takes on several similar situations, looking at relatives of several people that were close to Hitler.  Rudolph Hoess, for instance, was commandant of Auschwitz.  His grandson, Rainer, made a trip to the former concentration camp to meet the descendants of survivors.  Monika Goeth, daughter of Amon Goeth, met a bartender who was in Plaszów.  When the bartender found out that her father ran the concentration camp, he became upset.  As a child, she had no idea what went on.

The movie is about how the relatives deal with being related to someone who committed atrocities.  Niklas Frank, whose father was the governor-general of occupied Poland, wrote a book condemning his father.  He tried to find instances where his father may have helped someone to no avail.  His siblings weren’t always that supportive.  Much of what is shown of him in the movie is his speaking to groups about the book.  Two of Himmler’s grandchildren had themselves sterilized so as not to continue the line.

It’s hard to condemn the descendants as they really didn’t do anything.  Rainer Hoess wasn’t even born when his grandfather was in command of Auschwitz.  Monika Goeth asked questions of her mother, but her mother was evasive about what was going on.  However, there is that sense of guilt and shame of knowing your relatives caused such devastation.  I’m not sure how I would explain to my children that I had an ancestor that committed war crimes.  It’s not the kind of thing I’d be able to really hide.  The Nazis wanted to eradicate anyone that wasn’t part of their grand plan.  (13 million people were killed, 6 million of whom were Jews.)

I think that a movie like this is going to be different depending on which generation you’re a part of.  People of my generation may know the names, but people of my parents’ generation grew up watching reports of World War II on the news.  Those of my grandparent’s generation may have even fought in the war.  The names will be more recognizable to some.

I do recommend watching the movie.  If you’re planning on watching it with your children, it should be safe for those 13 and above.  The only thing I might recommend doing is looking up some of the history.  The movie doesn’t really go into detail about the people involved, other than to say who they were and what the family member did during the war.  It’s assumed that you know a certain amount of information.  You might find yourself having to explain some of the context.

The interviews are mostly in German with some English.  I was able to watch the documentary on Netflix.  Some of the reviews on Netflix were complaining that they couldn’t get the subtitles, but Netflix does have them.  You just have to be sure to turn them on.  It’s also available on DVD through Netflix, although I’m not sure about subtitle availability.  (I’d imagine that they do have it.)

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