My Nazi Legacy

 

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Two Germans born in 1939 whose fathers had been Nazis reveal their differing attitudes in a documentary that is never less than absorbing.


Although the directorial credit goes to David Evans, in essence this film can be thought of as the work of an international lawyer and author named Philippe Sands. As a Jew he tells us of his strong desire to understand the outlook of two men who, young children at the time, found their lives shaped by the actions of the Nazis in the Second World War. Sands is credited as the writer here and delivers the film’s narration and his fascination with Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter stems from the fact that each had a father who was a prominent Nazi. He first approached Frank who then introduced him to von Wächter as a friend of his.

  

 My Nazi Legacy

 

New footage for the film is shot in colour as Sands talks to both men whose travels take all three to the Ukraine and to a shared discussion in London’s Purcell Room before an audience. Historical images and old photographs also contribute to the film’s portrait of highly contrasted childhoods. Niklas Frank had an absent father who was also an unfaithful husband but the young Horst von Wächter was treated with love despite his mother being as firmly pro-Nazi as his father. But what distinguishes these two men now is that Frank repudiates his father utterly whereas Horst von Wächter, while deploring what the Nazis did, insists that his father, considered by many to be a hero, was carried along by the tide. He demands written evidence before being ready to condemn the man who escaped to Italy and thus, unlike Frank’s father, was never tried as a war criminal.


So different from any other film about this period of history, My Nazi legacy is a work that fascinates throughout. But part of its effect on this reviewer at least was hardly intended. For what could be considered good reasons, it becomes apparent that Sands wants to compel Horst to accept his father’s guilt. The persistence shown by Sands towards this is so remorseless that Horst’s reluctance, however unjustified ultimately, seems not dishonourable when set against the almost cruel determination that Sands exhibits in his pursuit. Whatever one’s view of this, it adds to the impact of the film. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring Niklas Frank, Horst von Wächter, Philippe Sands.


Dir David Evans, Pro Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Written by Philippe Sands, Ph Sam Hardy, Philipp Blaubach and Matt Gray, Ed David Charap, Music Malcolm Lindsay.


BFI/BBC Storyville/a Wildgaze Films production etc.-Altitude Film Distribution.
96 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 20 November 2015. Cert. PG.