Saturday, March 23, 2013

'Hitler's Children': Superb Doc Screens Sunday in SF

Here's a question I've long pondered. What is life like for the offspring of Nazi leaders, especially those with notorious family names that evoke death and evil on a massive scale? Thanks to a new Israeli documentary directed by Chanoch Ze'evi provocatively titled "Hitler's Children", I have answers satisfying my basic curiosity but ones that beg further questions.

At a packed showing last night at the Yerba Buena Screening Room on Mission near 3rd Street, I felt the burdens of guilt and never-ending shame of the descendants of Nazis as they showed photos of their childhood or explained why they've written books and essays about their relatives.

Monika Goeth, daughter of notorious concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List", tells about seeing the film and the lies heard from her mother.

A great-niece of top Hitler adviser Hermann Goering, Bettina, speaks casually about she and her brother self-sterilizing to end their branch of the family when they eventually die.

We follow Rainer Hoess, grandson of the man who ran Auschwitz, looking at boyhood photos of himself playing at the family villa on the grounds of the camp, then taking the train for the first time as an adult.

The stories and emotional honesty presented whetted my appetite for more details, such as why haven't they legally changed their family names and how and when they told their children about their family's horrific legacy.

One huge drawback to "Hitler's Children" is an occasionally intrusive sound design and score. After Monika Goeth's brutal truth-telling, dissonant music plays tugging at the emotions. Her incredible aged and heavily lined face, pictured, along with her gravelly voice, more than convey emotion and depth without musical cues.

Very much a film worth seeing. The Yerba Buena Screening Room has one additional showing this weekend. It plays tomorrow, Sunday, at 2:00 pm. Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.

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