Monday, April 20, 2015


A Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Selection

By D.E, Levine

Are the sins of the fathers visited on their children?  Director David Evans and writer Philippe Sands have created a documentary that show how children perceive the sins of their fathers is a purely personal matter.

In this case, the writer and director chose two sons of once high-ranking Nazi Party officials.  Although the fathers are long dead, and both left a horrific legacy, the two sons have chosen to respond in totally different ways.

Both Niklas Frank and Horst von Wachter were born in 1939.  Niklas' father, Hans Frank, was a prominent German attorney who served as Hitler's personal attorney and during World War II became governor-general of Nazi-occupied Polish territories.  He was convicted of war crimes at Nurenberg and executed after expressing remorse for his actions.  Otto von Wachter was an Austrian lawyer who held the positions of governor of Krakow, Poland and Galicia, Ukraine and was never brought to justice before his death in 1949.

During the documentary we see how each man's family history has shaped his opinions and memories of his father.  Niklas had no relationship with his cold, unaffectionate father and has spent most of his life denouncing the actions of his father.  Otto remembers his father as a warm, loving individual who contributed to a loving upbringing and has never reconciled himself to his father's part in the Final Solution.

Philippe Sands, an international lawyer specializing in cases of genocide and other human rights abuses, wrote the original article about Niklas Frank and Horst von Wachter upon which the film is based.  His own family included many Ukranian Jews who were rounded up and executed directly as a result of Frank's and von Wachter's actions.  He visits both men's childhood homes and studies personal family photographs with them.

There are chilling moments in the film when Horst refuses to acknowledge Otto's wrongdoing at a public appearance in London, the visit of the three men to a burnt out synagogue in the Ukraine and the site where 3,500 Jews were murdered.  Throughout it all, Horst refuses to acknowledge his father's wrongdoing and the enormity of his actions.

It is intriguing to watch these three men, bound by their family histories, converse in a dialogue which shows us how their family history influenced and continues to influence them and their beliefs.