What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy

Synopsis: Three men travel together across Europe. For two of them the journey involves a confrontation with the acts of their fathers, who were both senior Nazi officers. For the third, the eminent human rights lawyer and author Philippe Sands, it means visiting the place where much of his own Jewish family was destroyed by the fathers of the two men he has come to know. It is an emotional, psychological exploration of three men wrestling with their past, the present of Europe - and conflicting versions of the truth.
Director(s): David Evans
Production: Wildgaze Films
  1 win & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
96 min

Imagine what it must be like

to grow up as the child

of a mass murderer.

To live with such a parent

must impose the most terrible of burdens.

My name is Niklas Frank

I am born 9th of March, 1939.

This is not special,

special is that I'm by chance

the son of Hans Frank.

He was politically responsible

for all the ghettos

and for the concentration camps

on the soil of Poland.

I was researching a book on

the Nuremberg ma! when I met Niklas Frank

and later he introduced me

to Horst von Wchter.

I was born in Vienna on 14th April, 1939.

So I'm still a child of peace.

It was before the war.

As gratitude towards the Nazi party,

my mother proposed the name of Horst,

after Horst Wessel

who was a prominent figure

from the first years of the Nazi party.

Right from the beginning,

my father. he was a commie Nazi.

The material

was all the more relevant to me

because of my own family background.

I'm Jewish and my family

was very directly affected

by the actions of these men.

I'm curious about details and people.

I want to know why things happened,

why people act as they do,

how they can engage in mass killing

and then spend an evening with their families.

Yet, watching these images felt dirty.

As though, I was complicit

in a voyeuristic sort of way

looking on the inside of horror.

Mr. President, members of the court,

uh, ifs an honor...

My day job

is working as an international lawyer

on cases involving genocide

and crimes against humanity

but it was while

working on my book

that I was commissioned to write an article

about Horst von Wchter.

I came with a tremendous anxiety

because I just didn't know what to expect,

and because of this connection with the past.

Here was a man who might have met Hitler.

I was meeting someone

who was directly connected,

not just with abstract history

but with a deep part of my family's life.

How did you find this house?

Here, there was a colony of artists

in the '60s, you know.

Living in the schloss?

- Yeah, yeah.

It was a secret place, you know,

- where they came and made their festivities.

- Yeah.

I love this staircase.

Everything has a meaning,

you know.

Positions of the doors for elements,

for directions.

This room is, hmm, devoted to Trismegistus,

who's the god of wisdom, god of numbers.

Twenty-two windows.

- No, that...

No, 16 windows.

- There are 16, then you have four doors.


- And you have two chimneys, you know.

- Yeah.

And 22 is the number of the letters

in the Hebrew alphabet.

This is really very important.

The Hebrew thing

keeps coming back.

Yes, it is Hebrew.

Here you see we have two lovers, you know.

Are they the same lovers

or are they different lovers?

No, they are different.

They are very different, you know.

I've some to talk with him about

what his father got up to

during the Second World War

and he just wanted to talk about stones

and rocks and buildings,

about history going back millennia,

not just 70 years.

You can see here the two put here,

they are kissing each other, you know.

You told me that this building

was your father's gift to you.

- Oh, yes.

- What did you mean by that?

When you... You said that to me,

what did you mean by that?

This has to do with my youth

and how I dropped out of normality

because of my father.

Because my normality was, hmm,

that was normality between, hmm, until 1945

when I was six years

and that was practically destroyed, you know,

by this whole, by the war more or less

but I see it now like this.

Because everything was finished, you know,

and I was raised like a...

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Philippe Sands

Philippe Sands, QC (born 17 October 1960) is British and French lawyer at Matrix Chambers, and Professor of Laws and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London. A specialist in international law, he appears as counsel and advocate before many international courts and tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.Sands serves on the panel of arbitrators at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).He is the author of sixteen books on international law, including Lawless World (2005) and Torture Team (2008). His book East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2016) has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. On 5 February 2018 Sands was appointed President of English PEN. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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