Produced by Wildgaze Films, in association with BBC Storyville and BFI, the extraordinarily absorbing documentary, My Nazi Legacy, follows the journey of three men traveling together across Europe.
Two of whom are forced to confront the atrocious war crimes committed by their fathers during the second world war. Themselves now elderly, grappling with the horrific and often conflicting truths about the legacy’s that their fathers have left for them is a tumultuous emotional journey.
The third man accompanying them on this voyage of self exploration is Philipe Sands, an English author and respected international lawyer of Jewish ancestry, whose own relatives’ past intertwines with that of his new friends’ history.
There’s no getting around it. As captivating a human-life story as My Nazi Legacy is, it juxtaposes the inescapable bleakness of humanity at one of its lowest points in modern history alongside an unremitting perseverance of will and character. You will struggle to see any other documentary this year that portrays such a deeply personal insight as seen here. The humbling effect that the encounters have on each of the three men appears sincere and genuinely moving for them.
However, the stubbornness of Horst von Wachter, son of Otto von Wachter (a former high ranking Nazi official) will have you pulling your own hair in dismay at his growing reluctance to acknowledge any of his father’s wrong-doing. As an international lawyer who has worked on many high-profile cases, Phillipe’s patience wears thin; so too will you grow increasingly frustrated at the infantile justification put forward by Horst.
“My father was just following orders.”
“Everybody said he was a man of high moral character.”
All I’m saying is: if you sit down to watch this, take a stress-ball with you.
As the journey continues over the course of the relatively short run time, you will be glad that you brought it with you.
Alternatively, of course, you might find sympathy in the simple story of a son who is just looking for the good in a father where none has yet been found.
The documentary is extremely well directed by the Emmy-nominated and BAFTA-award winning director of TV and film, David Evans, with editing provided by David Charap who is probably most well known for his work on the Oscar nominated Virunga. They combine to give the overall production a touch of class, although it is difficult to shake that TV-vibe. At times it’s like watching an extended (if extremely high quality) episode of Horizon.
You may still be able to catch it in select art-house cinemas around the country after its Holocaust Memorial Day screening on Wednesday 27th January, but if not, you can pick it up on Digital HD and DVD.