Film looking at the descendants of the most powerful figures in the Nazi regime. What is it like to have grown up with a name that immediately raises images of genocide?
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Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering.
A member of Hitler's inner circle,
and a leading architect of the extermination of the Jews.
This is Bettina. Goering was her great uncle.
Amon Goeth was the sadistic commander
of the Plaszov concentration camp in Poland.
He was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands.
This is his daughter, Monica.
Heinrich Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany.
Leader of the SS and the Gestapo.
His great-niece is Catherine Himmler.
Hans Frank was another of Hitler's closest associates.
As Governor-General of occupied Poland,
he was responsible for the ghettos and the death camps.
This is his son, Niklas.
Rudolf Hoess was commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
His grandson is Rainer Hoess.
For the descendants of Hitler's most hated henchmen,
will the past always be present?
And will the future ever be free of guilt?
This is the story of how five men and women
have struggled to free themselves from the sins of their forefathers.
The Institute for Contemporary History in Munich.
Rainer Hoess wants to show a family heirloom to journalist Eldad Beck.
This fireproof chest, weighing 40 kilos,
was a gift from Himmler to Rainer's grandfather, Rudolf Hoess.
As a boy, Rainer was sure the box would reveal yet more horrors
of his grandfather's reign as the Auschwitz commander.
But instead, the box contained a series of photographs,
documenting the private life of the Hoess family.
Rainer's father and his brother and sisters
growing up in a grand house,
separated from the gas chambers by just a few yards.
This is what he wanted Eldad to see.
Rainer's father is the younger of the two boys in these pictures.
He grew up in this idyllic villa, in the grounds of Auschwitz.
Journalist Eldad Beck is a third-generation holocaust survivor.
Rainer and Eldad agree to make the journey to Auschwitz together.
The descendent of a Holocaust survivor and the grandson of a man found guilty of genocide.
Niklas Frank, a generation older than Rainer, was able to witness
some of the horrors of Hitler's Holocaust at first hand.
Childhood for the descendants of the Third Reich
could never be entirely innocent.
For many, it was also devoid of any parental love.
On the train to Auschwitz, where his father spent his early childhood,
Rainer Hoess recalls a cold, distant relationship.
Niklas Frank's childhood was equally devoid of parental love.
Monika Goeth was only one-year-old when her father was tried
and hung for the murder of tens of thousands at Poland's Plaszow concentration camp.
She was brought up by her mother,
as if the horrors of Plaszow had never happened.
She refers to her father by his first name,
As she grew up, Monica began to question
this rose-coloured version of her father's history.
And she confronted her mother.
Niklas Frank has written books about his parents and what it was like
growing up as the son of one of the leaders of the Third Reich.
He describes how his mother loved going shopping in her Mercedes,
escorted by the SS.
Niklas tours Germany, reading extracts from his work.
He presents his parents as he continues to see them, as monsters.
And he is equally tough on himself.
Here, he describes a day out to visit a concentration camp.
Katrin Himmler thought she had a good relationship with her father
until she started to research into the family's past.
Katrin's family descended from one of the most notorious of all Nazi war criminals.
Her grandfather was the brother of Gestapo and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler.
Bettina Goering remembers her grandmother denying
there had been any wrongdoing by the family at all.
I was like 11, 12, something like that.
We saw a documentary about the Holocaust on TV
and she was there and she'd say, "It's all lies, it's all lies!"
And we went, like, "How can you say that? Look at all that happened."
So I remember that there was...big fighting already, yeah, at home.
So, yeah, that's how those people dealt with it.
If they would have admitted what happened, I mean, it would have been terrible.
So best way to go is say it didn't happen at all.
The night before his arrival in Auschwitz,
Rainer is tormented by the thought that he might be recognised,
identified as the grandson of the concentration camp commander.
As he tried to go to sleep that night, he realised that
another source of anxiety was the pictures from his grandfather's box.
In particular, the photograph of the gate, which separated
the grand home from the horrors of the concentration camp.
The Gate to Hell began to symbolise for Rainer
the doorway he was stepping through himself to face
and to try to separate himself from the full weight of his past.
Sooner or later, all these sons and daughters of the Third Reich have looked through that gate
to have the horrors of their forefathers revealed to them.
For Monika Goeth, the chance came in the form of Manfred,
the owner of a bar in Munich.
Amon Goeth was portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the film Schindler's List.
It was this film that finally brought home to Monika
the full horror of her father's history.
Monika left the cinema suffering from shock.
She now knew what her father had been.
Auschwitz was organised as the first.
The commandant, the organiser, appointed for this place was Rudolf Hoess.
Rainer arrived at Auschwitz fully aware of the reputation
of his grandfather, Rudolf Hoess.
And he had known about the villa,
the idyllic home on the edge of hell, for most of his adult life.
But he was now about to see it for himself for the first time.
My private hell.
Rainer is immediately drawn to the gate,
and looks again at the photographs of his own father as a boy,
growing up in the shadow of the gas chambers.
The boy who would grow up still enamoured with the Third Reich.
Here, they are murdering people...
And they bring their families here and they, you know,
they grow their families here,
and, you know, everything is just as normal as it should be.
Entering the villa itself, the guide points out how close
the family would have been to the gas chambers.
You see? And small garden.
And small garden. Yeah?
Yeah. We go visit inside.
So we close this...
And the small gardens. You see? And walls from camp, you see?
So they are so close, the whole family, close to the chambers.
Your father grew up with this. With the smell. With the smoke.
When they pick up the strawberries, my grandmother said,
"Please wash it first, because it smells," about ashes, you know.
It took Rainer until he was in his mid-40s to make this trip.
Some of the descendents of the Third Reich don't get this far.
Others have denied, ignored or turned away.
For Himmler's great-niece Katrin, the shadow of the Holocaust
hung more heavily over her when she travelled abroad.
For Bettina Goering, on the other hand,
getting away from Germany was a huge step forward
on the way to coming to terms with her past.
She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I haven't lived in Germany for 30... I don't know, some years.
35 years by now.
It is easier for me to deal with the past of my family from this great distance.
It's not our life, you know, we have to digest
but the life of our grandparents or our parents, whichever.
And they didn't deal with it or they couldn't deal with it,
or only to a certain point could they deal with it,
and then you can absorb all that stuff,
and now we have to deal with it, like, sort of...
You have to be almost psychic to deal with it.
Bettina may have found it easier to face her past since she moved to the United States,
but how much is that to do with distance,
and how much to do with isolation?
We live outside of Santa Fe. Way out, actually.
I don't think anybody has lived here for good reason,
because there's very little water.
We only get our water from rainwater,
and we're off the grid, that's the other thing.
There's no electricity.
So we have to make our own, by solar,
and luckily, we have a telephone company,
so we are connected to the world through the internet or the telephone,
but, yeah, we're very far away from everything.
And yet isolating herself in a distant corner of a foreign land
still couldn't excise all the demons of her inheritance.
For Bettina, there was another, even more drastic, step to take.
Niklas Frank thinks you should not try to escape your past.
On the contrary, he works ceaselessly to bring the past
to the attention of as wide a public as possible.
Niklas tries to convince his audience that there is evil in the world.
His readings are a warning.
Katrin wrote the Himmler Brothers about her grandfather and two great-uncles,
and she has mixed feelings about its impact.
Katrin's book about the Himmler brothers
finally exposed the full horror of the past
that her family had tried to keep hidden.
In Auschwitz, an emotional Rainer has come face to face
with his family's dark past,
but he's about to face an even sterner test.
He stands before a group of Israeli students,
unmasked as the grandson of the Auschwitz commandant.
Ask the questions. I think it's...
Yeah, a little bit nervous also. It's the first time.
Why are you here?
Why are you here?
Warum bin ich hier?
To see the horror what my grandfather made,
and the lies what I have all the years in my family.
You say lies, what lies?
The family, my family lies.
I was a young boy when I met my grandmother,
and I asked her a couple of times, what's going on with the name?
But there was no answer.
I think a lot of these... Yeah. It wasn't spoken in my family.
Do you feel guilty for what your grandfather did?
-Do you feel responsible?
I feel guilty.
It's a pleasure for me.
I feel sorry for that what's going on with his family.
What would you do now if you can meet your grandpa?
You want to hear that, what I will do?
I will kill him myself.
CHATTERING AND LAUGHTER
The lives of Hitler's children have all taken different paths
as they have tried to face up to or free themselves from
the sins of their forefathers.
But can they ever truly escape the shadow of the past?
These children of Hitler can never undo the deeds of their forefathers
but by confronting their shared past in different ways,
they have perhaps eased the burden of that guilt
from the next generation.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Their family name alone evokes horror: Himmler, Frank, Goering, Hoess. This film looks at the descendants of the most powerful figures in the Nazi regime: men and women who were left a legacy that indelibly associates them with one of the greatest abominations in history. What is it like to have grown up with a name that immediately raises images of genocide? How do they live with the weight of their ancestors' crimes? Is it possible to move on from the crimes of their ancestors?