Director: Chanoch Ze’evi
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
What’s in a name? Well it’s who we are, isn’t it? Kelly, Green, Trinidad. You can probably come up with many names associated with just these three alone. Jim Kelly. Tom Green. Arsenio Trinidad, he’s an actor, I didn’t make that up. Of course there is Ernesto Trinidad, me. Now what if you’re last name was Dorner, Holmes or Lanza. Not very familiar names but when you are told what they are associated with they become clear. Dorner, is the ex-cop who recently committed murder for revenge and was the target of a huge manhunt. Holmes is the Aurora, CO movie theatre shooter. Lanza is the Sandy Hook, CT massacre shooter. Notorious. What do you do when your last names belong to some of the most infamous men in human history? What do you do when you share those last names because you are related by blood? Hitler’s Children looks at this quandary as the descendents of Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hoess, Amon Goeth and Hans Frank open up about being related to members of the Third Reich.
Ze’evi’s documentary is a fascinating and powerful examination of how families attempt to atone for the sins of the fathers. It’s difficult to fathom being in any of their shoes. Seriously how do you go through life knowing your father, grandfather or even uncle had a hand in genocide. The descendants give some potent, frank and emotional testimony. Clearly no one condones or embraces what has been done in the past. The subject matter takes on considerable weight when they describe what they’ve done to distance themselves from it, the impact it’s had on their lives, the guilt they feel from just being associated by name, just to mention a few. I was on edge when one descendent recounted meeting a survivor from the camp her father ran. Probably the most emotional moments come when the grandson of Rudolf Hoess visits Auschwitz for the first time. Again, it’s hard to fathom being in his or any of their shoes.
Not only does the film tackle the difficulty of being related to infamy it also poses the question that despite all this can one still truly love their parents. After all, they are your mother and father. Also, do your relations make you guilty by blood? These are some tough questions with no clear-cut answers.
While the descendents seek catharsis and are coming to grips with their legacy you can’t help but wonder if there ever is enough that can be done to truly get beyond such infamy. One position expressed in the film is that despite all the effort and good intentions to prove the adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” wrong, why does it feel like it isn’t enough. I don’t know, all I can say is maybe it is and that you should see this great documentary and come to your own conclusions.