Don't Ask. Don't Tell: A courageous filmmaker investigates his family and uncovers things he maybe wished he hadn't.
Pity this documentary is only available with the German soundtrack. This understated face-to-face inquiry, in which the filmmaker questions his own family about the Nazi regime, is more telling and more enlightening than a dozen atrocity films.
Seems like Granddad is cast as the villain. One sees photos of him as a student decked out in his dueling fraternity outfit, then in his SA (Storm Trooper) uniform. His Nazi party card shows that he signed up in 1931, early enough to qualify him as a loyal and enthusiastic fascist. The legendary German passion for record-keeping yields reams of info on him; he's implicated in some pretty sordid activities in Silesia toward the end of World War II. After the war, like millions of others, he easily obtained a document that more-or-less exonerated him, and lived an unobtrusive, humdrum, small-town life until a fatal road accident in the mid-fifties.
Evidence indicates that the old man was a committed racist, a blindly obedient follower of the Fuehrer, and a willing overseer of slave labor who lived and worked within earshot of a concentration camp. He trusted fully and completely in the destiny of his fatherland, which was to subjugate Europe and dominate the world. He was dedicated to zealous fulfillment of the tasks assigned him, and drew pride and satisfaction from jobs well-done.
In a way he merits grudging respect. He was a True Believer who while complicit in murdering racial undesirables, risked his own life doing so. He doubtless benefited from his obedience and dedication, but one gets the impression that his unqualified faith in National Socialism was genuine. A war criminal? Maybe. But probably Not Guilty of opportunism. At the eleventh hour, he arranged the evacuation of his family, an act of disloyalty that cost him his party membership, and likely placed him in considerable jeopardy. By contrast, his daughter and grandchildren appear far more ominous and, oddly enough, guilty.
Mom is a vapid, impassive, chubby senior who never discussed much with anybody. While she admits that walking past a huge pile of burning corpses as a twelve-year-old made an impression, it was just a case of "don't ask, don't tell." Confronted with the grisly evidence, she displays virtually no emotion; neither grief, nor regret, nor even curiosity. The grandchildren --the director's sisters -- are at once uncanny and repulsive. They iron, vacuum, sew, and endlessly gripe and complain about their own narrow, petty, selfish concerns without the slightest indication of pity for the victims. Dad is a henpecked, browbeaten little guy who's too busy gluing together homemade Christmas ornaments to respond to the interview. Yet all five agreed to be interviewed and filmed.
One sister refused to participate. I got the impression she was the eldest. A brief glimpse of her at the end sends the viewer a cryptic, sinister message.
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