Beate Thalberg's critically acclaimed documentary tells the story of two German families, whose ways first cross in the 1930s. Karl Amson Joel owned the fourth largest mail order company in...
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Beate Thalberg's critically acclaimed documentary tells the story of two German families, whose ways first cross in the 1930s. Karl Amson Joel owned the fourth largest mail order company in Germany, but has to leave Germany with is family due to his Jewish roots in 1933. Meanwhile, the Neckermann family gains his business empire by profiteering from the Nazi expropriation laws. Almost seventy years later, their descendants, among them pop star Billy Joel, meet in Vienna to confront themselves and each other with their common history... Written by
Many people will see this documentary because of Billy Joel, after all, his family is half the subject of "The Joel Files." And that's great, because with or without star quality, this is a film that must be seen by everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Even if you know something about what the Nazis did to the Jews, you'll still watch this film with your mouth open in disbelief. Before World War II, Karl Joel, the singer's grandfather, created a mail order enterprise. From his hard work and ingenuity he amassed a mansion and a fortune. Then the Nazis began taking control of the government and the Jewish businessman saw his name ruined, his business and home stolen, and his life threatened. Defeated and fearful for his existence, he fled the country for Cuba and then the United States. History worked out a different scenario for another mail order magnate -Neckermann, a Catholic and a Nazi sympathizer. Thanks to his connections, he was able to profit tremendously from the war and the suffering of the Jews in concentration camps. (He thought he was helping them by giving them jobs.) His own later greed lead to his ruin. The documentary tells the story of these two families, but it doesn't just present a piece of history. It also demonstrates how this event has affected the survivors. Interesting stuff. How the Neckermann grandchildren can speak of their relative without disgust is beyond me, especially when the viewer watches Neckermann talk about those events with a fixed smirk on his face. If Neckermann hadn't done what he did, wouldn't someone else have taken advantage of the Joel family? Maybe, but as Joel's brother suggests, if you go along with something doesn't that still make you culpable?
Somewhere along the way, while rolling in his piles of money, didn't Neckermann stop and think of what he'd done to a man to a people?
Even those who don't like documentaries will find this to be riveting, thought-provoking subject matter.
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