Whilst researching the Nuremberg trials, eminent human rights lawyer Phillippe Sands came across two friends who provided an unusually personal angle to his investigation. Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter are both the children of Nazi war criminals - their fathers were consultants to Hitler and responsible for thousands of deaths. The film follows the men as they travel through Europe together, grappling with their family histories and inherited guilt in very different ways.
While Niklas accepts his own father’s role in the Holocaust and despises him for it, Horst’s relationship to his is far more complex. Clinging on to his 'decent character', Horst desperately attempts to absolve his father, despite being confronted with mounting evidence of the atrocities he committed. Niklas’ peaceful acceptance makes Horst’s wilful denial all the more excruciating, and tension mounts as a result.
We soon discover that Sand’s own grandfather was the sole holocaust survivor in a family of eighty, all of whom lived in the district in which von Wachter ruled. This intensely personal angle and Sands’ increasing anger allow the film to provide a psychologically fascinating take on a well-worn topic.
While Horst is forced into confronting his father’s actions, we the viewer and Sands himself are forced to understand the human beings ever-present at the heart of the holocaust. Interspersed with home movies and clips of Horst’s happy childhood, What Our Fathers Did’ offers a painful and intimate exploration into father-son relationships and the banality of evil. A powerful and affecting film, even for those with little interest in the subject matter, it's worth catching at the London film festival screenings on 11 and 18 October.
UK release date 20 November
|What||My Nazi Legacy review|
|Where||Curzon Mayfair, 38 Curzon Street, London, , W1J 7TY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Bond Street (underground)|
20 Nov 15 – 01 Feb 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£9 – £14.05|
|Website||Click here to book via the BFI website|