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When Arnon Goldfinger's grandmother dies in Tel Aviv, his whole family come around for the necessary disposition of her property. While dealing with all the stuff, Arnon makes a shocking discovery: evidence that his German Jewish grandparents had a long-lasting friendship with the senior Nazi SS officer, Leopold von Mildenstein, before and after World War II. His repulsion and confusion at how his beloved grandparents could have done that sends Arnon on an international search for the truth. In doing so, Arnon learns about a complex relationship, in which family, sentiment, history and human nature combine to produce a kind of denial in reaction to the worst of reality. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
When you start digging, you don't know what you'll uncover
The Flat (2011) is an Israeli movie, written and directed by Arnon Goldfinger. It's an unusual film, because I believe that the filmmaker truly didn't know how the movie would end when he started filming.
Arnon Goldfinger's grandmother died in Tel Aviv at age 98. He and his family had the task of cleaning out the apartment in which his grandparents had lived since the 1930's. The family members were shocked to learn of their grandparents' close friendship with a German family, the von Mildersteins. This friendship had begun before WW II, but had endured the war, and had been re-established after the war.
Goldfinger pursues the question of how his Jewish grandparents could have stayed in such close touch with a Nazi couple. Why did they do this? The director tracks down the daughter of the von Mildersteins, who welcomes them to her home in Germany. The daughter was well aware of the friendship, and apparently the friendship didn't strike her as strange.
The director then digs deeper into the facts related to von Milderstein. Was he "just a journalist," as his daughter believes, or was he much more? (The facts about von Milderstein are now available in the archives from the former East Germany.)
We can only speculate about the explanation for how the friendship could continue for so long. This is especially puzzling, because Goldfinger's maternal great-grandmother (his grandmother's mother) had been killed by the Nazis.
Goldfinger interviews an expert in post-Holocaust Jewry. The expert offers what I thought was a good explanation for the psychology of Jews who retained their ties to Germany and to Germans after the war. That answer is probably the best that the director--or we as viewers--are going to get. It explains behavior that would otherwise be inexplicable.
This is definitely a film you want to seek out if you are interested in post-Holocaust behavior. It's also informative to watch von Milderstein's daughter deal with the new information that Goldfinger has uncovered.
We saw this movie in the Rochester Jewish Community Center as part of the outstanding Rochester Jewish Film Festival. However, it should work very well on DVD. After you see it, you'll keep thinking about it. I recommend it.
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