Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Film Review: Inheritance

I am home with my sick, but rapidly recovering, 5.75 year old son today.  One of the side effects of his "illness" is wanting me to be right by his side at all times.  This doesn't bother me at all (he's only little once), but it does prevent me from accomplishing the chores that I could have gotten done on this unexpected day off of work.

Instead of watching ANOTHER episode of Scooby Doo, I decided to stick in the ear buds and watch something (not animated) on the iPad.  We have an Amazon.com Prime Membership.  It rocks.  One of the many benefits of this membership is the unlimited, commericial free, instant streaming of movies and television shows.  We watch movies and tv series often this way.

While perusing the documentaries available, I stumbled on Inheritance.  It was released in 2008 and is the extraordinary and gut wrenching story of two women, Monika Hertwig and Helen Jonas.
Monika never knew her father.  Like million of German children, she lost her father in WWII. She was not yet a year old when he died.  At age eleven, Monika finds out that her father did not die in battle as countless other German soldiers.  Her father was executed; hanged as a thief.

Helen, however, knew Monika's father very well.  She was only fifteen when she arrived with other Jews at the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland.  Monika's father was Helen's warden, her torturer, and her nightmare for nearly two years at Plaszow.  He made her one of his house maids, exposing her to daily humiliation and beatings (but, most likely, saving her life).

Now, take a step back with me to December, 1993.  Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List opens in theaters.  My husband and I went to see it on a Saturday afternoon.  We had planned to go to dinner afterwards, but neither of us had any appetitie when we left the theater.  Seeing that film changed me.  It was one thing to know about what happened in The Holocaust.  It was a whole other thing to see it.  I have not seen Schindler's List since then.  I do not need to see it again.  I do believe everyone should see it once...to see what man can do to man.  I remember it very well.  It's seared into my brain.  I had a particular problem, after Schindler's List, being able to see Ralph Fiennes in any other films.  No matter how heroic or dashing his character may have been, to me he was always that horrific, evil, sadistic, Nazi who thoroughly enjoyed killing and torturing his prisoners.

Monika Hertwig saw Schindler's List in the theater, also.  But, her experience was very different from the millions of others who saw the film.  Monika was waiting to see her father on the screen.  Monika's father was Amon Goetz, the commander of the Plaszow camp,...brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes.

Can you imagine?  Can you even fathom?

When Monika sees Helen Jonas interviewed in a documentary about the survivors of Plaszow, she writes her a letter asking to meet her.  Inheritance is the story of the two women and the very different scars they bear from the same man's choices.  It's also a story of hope and learning from the past.
As an avid fan of documentaries, I will tell you that this is not the best film you will ever see.  It isn't slickly produced with wonderful background music and dramatic editing.  It's just very real.  The pain in these women and the emotional journey they take will certainly move you.  I do not hesitate to recommend it.

4/5 stars

Note: This documentary is not rated, but because of the topic and some strong language I would be cautious about allowing children under age 16 to see it without adult supervision (and a good history lesson beforehand).
"Every father in a war should think about his children."--Monika Goetz Hertwig