A Heartbreaking Documentary On The Legacy And Psychological Aftereffects Of The Holocaust

Posted on January 17, 2014 in Culture-Vulture

By Deepak Patel:

Whenever we see a child’s face, we observe the innocence closely and cherish it. We cherish it because of its inherent purity.

But to think about it, we see that innocence because there is no burden of the past. We see that innocence because there is no regret, pain, hatred or fear in a child. Children can’t remember these strong emotions for long, everything for them is temporary. Eventually, we observe the innocence fading away as they come to term with their ‘inheritan

inheritanceChildren come to term with the fact that they have inherited a world full of pain, hunger, dread, hatred, greed and machinations from their forefathers. By the time of their realisation, that innocence is lost, one more adult is born.

While watching the documentary ‘Inheritance’, we observe the face of Monika Hertwig, daughter of Amon Goeth (the Nazi Commandant of the Krakow Plaszow concentration camp in Poland during World War II), an old woman who still has that precious ‘innocence’ on her face.

This old woman was ten months old when Amon Goeth was executed for different war crimes, primarily for killing thousands of Jews (remember ‘Schindler’s List’). But the burden of inheritance is so heavy on her, that her face has this permanent harrowing but ‘innocent’ expression of a child who is lost in a huge carnival.

Sometimes, it is better to be childlike to escape so much pain. James Moll’s 75-minute documentary is a simple tale of a single woman trying to cope with this ‘inheritance’ of pain and horror with some mutual understanding and help.

Monika Hertwig watches Steven Speilberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’, hates it, but then slowly comes to acknowledge the fact that his father was a monster and mother was a bystander. In order to bring some closure, for a new beginning so as to live with the truth, she asks Helen Jonas, who resides in America, to come meet her at Poland’s concentration camp memorial. Helen Jonas is a concentration camp survivor, who worked as a teenager in Amon Goeth’s villa during the holocaust.

What makes this documentary beautiful is its brilliant portrayal of how a child has to live with the legacy of her parents till her own death, unable to escape it. The war, the human bestiality and the sheer horror, all of this is in the background. We are not observing an old woman, but a child named Monika, trying hard to repent for the sins of her parents. We are not observing the war, but the everlasting effects of this war on human beings.

Those human beings include Helen Jonas, her husband, her children and her deceased parents too. And those human beings include Monika’s own daughter, her grandson, her husband, her mother and her grandmother too.

Monika Hertwig’s story is of courage, because it requires courage to walk on this road to redemption. Let us pray to god for such courage, so that even we can face the demons hiding in the corners of our past, and so that we can live with the legacy of our parents.