Hitler’s Children


The title has its own legacy: Hitler’s Children was first used for a 1943 RKO propaganda feature, then a biography of West Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Gang in the late 1970s. Now it serves as the title of Chanoch Ze’evi’s compassionate group portrait of five actual descendants of the Nazi regime’s most notorious actors. Ze’evi, a third-generation Holocaust survivor, persuaded the grand-nieces of both Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, the son of Hans Frank, the grandson of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hess, and the daughter of Amon Goeth to discuss their indirect implication in one of history’s darkest episodes. Two wrote books to shear themselves from the family name; one fled Germany and sterilized herself to ensure “there would be no more Goerings.” Interweaving interviews and footage of Rainer Hess’s first trip to Auschwitz, Hitler’s Children is a powerful and well-judged presentation of the stories and their impossibilities. The subjects’ eyes share a pained bewilderment, their testimonies a cultural and historical freight. The documentary’s defining tension lies in its implicit invitation to join the subjects in searching their own faces for some sign of the past, of previous generations, of evil. We find what they have: much sadness and little peace.