My Nazi Legacy
Sobering documentary from David Evans about the sins of the fathers
The original title of this documentary, What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy, has been ditched in favour of a simpler expression but, either way, TV director David Evans (whose big screen efforts include 1997's Fever Pitch) and writer-presenter Philippe Sands should be commended for their frankness in tackling the trickier questions behind the actions of high-ranking German individuals during the Holocaust.
Sands is an accomplished lawyer, and the documentary details his interaction with two sons who have to deal with the sins of their fathers, specifically the role they played as Nazi officers. What makes Evans’s film so compelling is the different attitude of the two men who share his journey through various historical locations. Niklas Frank readily admits to shame about his father, but Horst von Wächter is portrayed as being in denial about his father’s complicit role in the mass execution of thousands of Jews. During a live interview, audience members voice their surprise that von Wächter would attempt to publicly defend his father, but this denial presents Sands and Evans with undeniably explosive content. As the evidence mounts up, von Wächter’s ‘only carrying out orders’ defence becomes increasingly weak, and his distress is clear to see.
Sobering is the best word to describe My Nazi Legacy. As Frank and Sands cajole and eventually plead with von Wächter to change his position, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the old man, who had no control over his father’s actions. But the filmmakers’ point that, without fully recognising the lessons of the past the future is always under threat from revisionism, is a solid one, and pressed home remorselessly. My Nazi Legacy is a hard, unsparing watch, but rewarding in the way it pushes each man to find common ground in the darkest corner of history.
Selected release from Fri 20 Nov.