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Hitler's Children (2011) - full transcript

Bettina Göring is the great-niece of Nazi official Hermann Göring. Katrin Himmler is the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, second in command of the Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler. Rainer Höß is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, creator and commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Niklas Frank is the son of Hans Frank, Polish Governor-General during WWII, he who was responsible for the ghettos and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Poland. Monika Hertwig is the daughter of Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plaszów Concentration Camp. None with Nazi leanings, the five talk individually about what it is like to carry a name associated with the Nazi Party, being a blood relative to someone associated with hate and murder, being German at a time when that in and of itself was seen as being associated with Naziism, dealing with their family regardless of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, and if they feel any guilt associated with the actions of their infamous ancestor. In addition to these musings, Hoess and journalist Eldad Beck - a third generation Holocaust survivor - travel back to Auschwitz to revisit their shared ancestral past. And Frank tells in his writings and in public speaking engagements, most to school aged children, of his past of being the direct beneficiary to many of the Nazi Party's favors which in turn is partly the reason he denounces his parents.

Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering.

A member of Hitler's inner circle,

and a leading architect
of the extermination of the Jews.

This is Bettina.
Goering was her great uncle.

Amon Goeth was the sadistic commander

of the Plaszov
concentration camp in Poland.

He was responsible for the deaths
of tens of thousands.

This is his daughter, Monica.

Heinrich Himmler was one of the
most powerful men in Nazi Germany.

Leader of the SS and the Gestapo.

His great-niece is Catherine Himmler.

Hans Frank was another
of Hitler's closest associates.

As Governor-General of occupied Poland,

he was responsible for the
ghettos and the death camps.

This is his son, Niklas.

Rudolf Hoess was commander
of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

His grandson is Rainer Hoess.

For the descendants of
Hitler's most hated henchmen,

will the past always be present?

And will the future ever be free of guilt?

This is the story of
how five men and women

have struggled to free themselves
from the sins of their forefathers.

The Institute for
Contemporary History in Munich.

Rainer Hoess wants to show a family
heirloom to journalist Eldad Beck.

This fireproof chest, weighing 40 kilos,

was a gift from Himmler to
Rainer's grandfather, Rudolf Hoess.

As a boy, Rainer was sure the box
would reveal yet more horrors

of his grandfather's reign
as the Auschwitz commander.

But instead, the box contained
a series of photographs,

documenting the private
life of the Hoess family.

Rainer's father
and his brother and sisters

growing up in a grand house,

separated from the gas chambers
by just a few yards.

This is what he wanted Eldad to see.

Rainer's father is the younger
of the two boys in these pictures.

He grew up in this idyllic villa,
in the grounds of Auschwitz.

Journalist Eldad Beck is a
third-generation holocaust survivor.

Rainer and Eldad agree to make
the journey to Auschwitz together.

The descendent of a Holocaust
survivor and the grandson of a man
found guilty of genocide.

Niklas Frank, a generation older
than Rainer, was able to witness

some of the horrors
of Hitler's Holocaust at first hand.

Childhood for the descendants
of the Third Reich

could never be entirely innocent.

For many, it was also
devoid of any parental love.

On the train to Auschwitz, where his
father spent his early childhood,

Rainer Hoess recalls a cold,
distant relationship.

Niklas Frank's childhood was equally
devoid of parental love.

Monika Goeth was only one-year-old
when her father was tried

and hung for the murder of tens
of thousands at Poland's Plaszow
concentration camp.

She was brought up by her mother,

as if the horrors of Plaszow
had never happened.

She refers to her
father by his first name,


As she grew up, Monica began to question

this rose-coloured version
of her father's history.

And she confronted her mother.

Niklas Frank has written books about
his parents and what it was like

growing up as the son of one of
the leaders of the Third Reich.

He describes how his mother loved
going shopping in her Mercedes,

escorted by the SS.

Niklas tours Germany,
reading extracts from his work.

He presents his parents as he
continues to see them, as monsters.

And he is equally tough on himself.

Here, he describes a day out
to visit a concentration camp.

Katrin Himmler thought she had a
good relationship with her father

until she started to
research into the family's past.

Katrin's family descended
from one of the most notorious
of all Nazi war criminals.

Her grandfather was
the brother of Gestapo
and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler.

Bettina Goering remembers
her grandmother denying

there had been any wrongdoing
by the family at all.

I was like 11, 12, something like that.

We saw a documentary
about the Holocaust on TV

and she was there and she'd say,
"It's all lies, it's all lies!"

And we went, like,
"How can you say that?
Look at all that happened."

So I remember that there was...big
fighting already, yeah, at home.

So, yeah, that's how those people
dealt with it.

If they would have admitted
what happened,
I mean, it would have been terrible.

So best way to go is say
it didn't happen at all.

The night before his arrival in Auschwitz,

Rainer is tormented by the thought
that he might be recognised,

identified as the grandson
of the concentration camp commander.

As he tried to go to sleep
that night, he realised that

another source of anxiety was the
pictures from his grandfather's box.

In particular, the photograph
of the gate, which separated

the grand home from the horrors
of the concentration camp.

The Gate to Hell began
to symbolise for Rainer

the doorway he was stepping
through himself to face

and to try to separate himself
from the full weight of his past.

Sooner or later, all these sons
and daughters of the Third Reich
have looked through that gate

to have the horrors of their
forefathers revealed to them.

For Monika Goeth, the chance
came in the form of Manfred,

the owner of a bar in Munich.

Amon Goeth was portrayed
by Ralph Fiennes in the film
Schindler's List.

It was this film that finally
brought home to Monika

the full horror of her father's history.

Monika left the cinema
suffering from shock.

She now knew what her father had been.

Auschwitz was organised as the first.

The commandant, the organiser,
appointed for this place
was Rudolf Hoess.

Rainer arrived at Auschwitz
fully aware of the reputation

of his grandfather, Rudolf Hoess.

And he had known about the villa,

the idyllic home on the edge
of hell, for most of his adult life.

But he was now about to see it
for himself for the first time.

The gate...

My private hell.

Rainer is immediately drawn to the gate,

and looks again at the photographs
of his own father as a boy,

growing up in the shadow
of the gas chambers.

The boy who would grow up still
enamoured with the Third Reich.


Horrible, horrible.

Here, they are murdering people...

Millions. Childs.

And they bring their families here
and they, you know,

they grow their families here,

and, you know, everything is just
as normal as it should be.


Entering the villa itself,
the guide points out how close

the family would have been
to the gas chambers.

You see? And small garden.

And small garden. Yeah?

Yeah. We go visit inside.

So we close this...


And the small gardens. You see?
And walls from camp, you see?


You see? Yeah.

So they are so close, the whole
family, close to the chambers.


Your father grew up with this.
With the smell. With the smoke.

When they pick up the strawberries,
my grandmother said,

"Please wash it first, because
it smells," about ashes, you know.



It took Rainer until he was
in his mid-40s to make this trip.

Some of the descendents of
the Third Reich don't get this far.

Others have denied, ignored
or turned away.

For Himmler's great-niece Katrin,
the shadow of the Holocaust

hung more heavily over her
when she travelled abroad.

Good girl.

For Bettina Goering, on the other hand,

getting away from Germany
was a huge step forward

on the way to
coming to terms with her past.

She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I haven't lived in Germany for 30...
I don't know, some years.

35 years by now.

It is easier for me to deal with
the past of my family from
this great distance.

It's not our life, you know,
we have to digest

but the life of our grandparents
or our parents, whichever.

And they didn't deal with it
or they couldn't deal with it,

or only to a certain point
could they deal with it,

and then you can absorb all that stuff,

and now we have to deal with it,
like, sort of...

You have to be almost psychic
to deal with it.

Bettina may have found it easier
to face her past since she moved to
the United States,

but how much is that to do with distance,

and how much to do with isolation?

We live outside of Santa Fe.
Way out, actually.

I don't think anybody has lived here
for good reason,

because there's very little water.

We only get our water from rainwater,

and we're off the grid,
that's the other thing.

There's no electricity.

So we have to make our own, by solar,

and luckily, we have a telephone company,

so we are connected to the world
through the internet
or the telephone,

but, yeah, we're very far away
from everything.

And yet isolating herself in
a distant corner of a foreign land

still couldn't excise all the demons
of her inheritance.

For Bettina, there was another,
even more drastic, step to take.


Niklas Frank thinks you should not
try to escape your past.

On the contrary, he works
ceaselessly to bring the past

to the attention of as wide a public
as possible.

Niklas tries to convince his
audience that there is evil
in the world.

It exists.

His readings are a warning.

Katrin wrote the Himmler Brothers
about her grandfather and two

and she has mixed feelings
about its impact.

Katrin's book about the Himmler brothers

finally exposed the full horror
of the past

that her family had tried to keep hidden.


In Auschwitz, an emotional Rainer
has come face to face

with his family's dark past,

but he's about to face an even
sterner test.

He stands before a group of Israeli

unmasked as the grandson
of the Auschwitz commandant.

Ask questions.

Ask the questions. I think it's...

It's better?

Yeah, a little bit nervous also.
It's the first time.

Why are you here?

Why are you here?

Warum bin ich hier?


To see the horror
what my grandfather made,

and the lies what
I have all the years in my family.

You say lies, what lies?

The family, my family lies.

I was a young boy when I met
my grandmother,

and I asked her a couple of times,
what's going on with the name?

But there was no answer.

I think a lot of these... Yeah.
It wasn't spoken in my family.

Do you feel guilty for what
your grandfather did?

Do you feel responsible? Yes.

I feel guilty.


It's a pleasure for me.

I feel sorry for that
what's going on with his family.

What would you do now
if you can meet your grandpa?


You want to hear that, what I will do?

I will kill him myself.



The lives of Hitler's children
have all taken different paths

as they have tried to face up to
or free themselves from

the sins of their forefathers.

But can they ever truly escape
the shadow of the past?


These children of Hitler can never
undo the deeds of their forefathers

but by confronting their shared past
in different ways,

they have perhaps
eased the burden of that guilt

from the next generation.


Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd