Ter­ri­fy­ing jour­ney to jus­tify a Nazi past

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FILM BRIGIT GRANT


WHAT TER­RI­BLE thing would your fa­ther have to do to make you ad­mit he was a mon­ster? For most peo­ple, dis­cov­er­ing he was re­spon­si­ble for the mur­der of 75,000 in­no­cent men, women and chil­dren would be enough, but not Horst von Wächter. Horst is the gen­tle and dis­il­lu­sioned son of a high-rank­ing Nazi of­fi­cer who ran the dis­trict of Gali­cia in the Ukraine dur­ing Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion.

It was un­der Otto von Wächter’s com­mand that 3,500 Jews were ex­e­cuted in a wood in Lviv, but re­gard­less of the facts which the Nazis doc­u­mented so well, Horst will not ac­cept it. It is this re­fusal to ac­knowl­edge his fa­ther’s guilt that drives the nar­ra­tive in David Evans’s finely crafted and to­tally ab­sorb­ing doc­u­men­tary, which is built around an un­der­stand­ing be­tween hu­man­rights lawyer Philippe Sands and Nik­las Frank, the son of Nazi gen­eral Hans Frank who was ex­e­cuted at Nurem­berg.

Nik­las Frank is a fas­ci­nat­ing and, dare I say, like­able man as he bit­terly con­demns the ac­tions of his fa­ther, with whom he had no re­la­tion­ship and shares vivid rec­ol­lec­tions of vis­its to the Crakow ghetto, where he was old enough to re­alise the peo­ple looked sad.

“I poked my tongue out at a small boy through the win­dow of the Mercedes,” says Nik­las and the im­age chills your heart. It was through Nik­las that Sands met Horst, who was will­ing to cas­ti­gate the Fi­nal So­lu­tion and all the atroc­i­ties but will not at­tribute blame to his fa­ther. The ab­sence of a sig­na­ture on of­fi­cial doc­u­ments is what Horst clings to for jus­ti­fi­ca­tion but, for Sands, this is jus­ti­fy­ing the killing of his grand­fa­ther’s rel­a­tives. David Evans gives all three men space to have their say as they travel to the Ukraine to­gether and thought­fully uses archive film that tells the sto­ries of th­ese sons who grew up against a back­drop of Nazi uni­forms, but now hold dif­fer­ent views. That in it­self is ter­ri­fy­ing and will doubt­less be a trig­ger for se­ri­ous de­bate.

Hor­rific: Horst von Wächter, Philippe Sands and Nik­las Frank in

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