While flipping channels the other night, I happened upon this show Inheritance on PBS. Even though it is already a few years old, I had never seen it before. Maybe I wasn’t ready; maybe serendipity is at call again, with the death of Bin Laden, we need reminders of how evil can pretend to be the most normal thing possible. But this is an amazing show and I heartily (that is, full of heart) recommend you see it, if you haven’t already.
Here’s the synopsis that is listed on that opening page:
Imagine watching Schindler’s List and knowing the sadistic Nazi camp commandant played by Ralph Fiennes was your father.Inheritance is the story of Monika Hertwig, the daughter of mass murderer Amon Goeth. Hertwig has spent her life in the shadow of her father’s sins, trying to come to terms with her “inheritance.” She seeks out Helen Jonas, who was enslaved by Goeth and who is one of the few living eyewitnesses to his unspeakable brutality. The women’s raw, emotional meeting unearths terrible truths and lingering questions about how the actions of our parents can continue to ripple through generations.
And this is part of what the filmmaker, James Moll, says about the project:
I’ve made a lot of documentaries in the past, and although you generally don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, you have some idea. I certainly thought when Monika Hertwig met with Helen Jonas, when the daughter of a perpetrator met with a victim of the Holocaust, that there would be some sense of closure, some sense of coming together. But it didn’t turn out at all like I thought it would. In fact, I was watching it thinking, “Do I want to show this to people?” Their meeting poses more questions than it answers. For me, ultimately, when I went home and watched the footage, it was fascinating. It made me think about how the Holocaust continues to affect us, even today, in unexpected ways. So without giving away too much of what happens during the film, I can say that the meeting between the two women was very surprising.
And this is what he says about how the project started in the first place:
In the winter of 2003, I first contacted Monika Hertwig, the daughter of Amon Goeth, to ask for her permission to use photographs of her father in a documentary we were producing for the 10th-anniversary Schindler’s List DVD release. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect from Monika, but I was certainly surprised that she spoke such perfect English. When I told her so, she laughed and explained that her first boyfriend was American. She was charming. Friendly. Easy to talk to. Monika and I had a very pleasant conversation, and she gave her consent to use the photographs.
Then suddenly, Monika surprised me with a statement completely off the subject. She said, “I am not my father.” I immediately got chills. That seemingly small comment weighted with massive implication triggered a turning point in our conversation.
What struck me in that moment was her need to declare, to a total stranger, that she was not in any way responsible for the actions of her father, a man who murdered thousands of innocent people. The more I thought about her comment, the more it fascinated me. It stayed with me. It was the first time that I had stopped and thought about what it may be like to be the child of someone capable of such blatant inhumanity, and consequently, about the burden that Monika must carry.
“I am not my father.” That one statement became the genesis of Inheritance.
Reading some of the comments on the bottom of the original POV page, we can see that it cannot be its conclusion.