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'Hitler's Children' (2011) review: Relatives of top nazis tell their stories

Rainer Hoess, grandson of Auschwitz creator Rudolf Hoess, who appears in the film
Rainer Hoess, grandson of Auschwitz creator Rudolf Hoess, who appears in the filmCourtesy of Vancouver International Film Festival

Hitler's Children

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What do Bettina Goering, Katrin Himmler, Monika Goeth, Rainer Hoess, and Niklas Frank all have in common? They all bear the mark of relation to high-ranking Nazis.

In 83 minutes, this documentary tells the story of their struggle to come to terms with their family’s dark history. At turns heart-wrenching, disturbing, and inspiring, the film is captivating from the first scene to the ending credits.

Watch the trailer for "Hitler's Children"

In one heart-breaking scene, Monika Goeth, daughter and near-twin of Amon Goeth, the ghoulish Nazi immortalized by Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List," —looks into the camera and insists that “I’m not him.”

There are many such moments in "Hitler's Children."

Others include a grandson of a concentration camp commander recalling how his father was told to wash off strawberries that ‘smelled bad’ because human ashes had fallen on them from nearby gas chambers.

This movie is for history-buffs, students of the Holocaust, and anyone curious to see how five human beings deal with the immense baggage that comes with being related to a Nazi perpetrator.

On the one end, there is Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank, governor-general of occupied Poland and chief overseer of that country’s death camps, who, driven by a desire to separate himself from his parents, metaphorically executes them over and over again in speeches before young Germans who he admonishes to keep a clear eye in judging their parents.

On the other end, there is Bettina Goering, niece of Nazi leader Hermann Goering, who has chosen voluntary exile in America and sterilization as a means of permanently severing her connection to her tainted family name.

The film shows that these people too, are victims of Nazi crimes, and continue to suffer mental torment as a result of the actions of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and mothers.

Despite efforts to close wounds and make things right, what’s done cannot be undone, and the story of Nazi perpetrators and their victims may, as 3rd-generation survivor Eldad Beck puts it in the film, be “without an ending."