Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hitler's Children

I saw this really good documentary on Netflix the other day - it's called Hitler's Children - a conversational-styled movie with dialogues with the surviving children/grandchildren of the topmost (and hence the most fearsome) officers of the Nazi regime and some of the first and second generation holocaust survivors.

It deals with issues of the burden of carrying a fear-inducing surname - the feeling of guilt, responsibility, embarrassment, shame. The most powerful moment of the film for me was when the grandson of the Auschwitz camp commander visits the camp on a day when a survivor from that very camp is also visiting. The grandson is asked to answer a few questions by the tourists, and as he struggles to hold back his tears and give dignified responses, this survivor walks upto him, hugs him tight and says, "You were not there, it was not your fault. That was another time." I still get goosebumps recalling that scene. The grandson completely broke down - was it a closure or not is debatable. Did the survivor feel that having met the next generation of his perpetrator and forgiving him, he can move on - forgive and forget? Did the son feel that having got that acknowledgement from a person who lived through the camp atrocities is a befitting closure to the years of guilt and shame? I do not know.

The documentary made me wonder on the larger question of what family legacies and surnames do to an individual's life. Obviously, they have greater bearing if there is real greatness or tragedy associated - but how do children deal with it. I am sure sons and daughters of politicians and actors in the current world have it easy - do they really have a "burden on their shoulders", I think not. Ditto with business men. (Pardon me for my dismissive tone.) But imagine being born to parents who have been responsible for killing millions or some other negative impact that history can never forgive and forget - what do you do? Would you "renounce" the "name" or would you "live" with it?

10 comments:

  1. Very well put thoughts Yuvika. I can assure you, you are not the first one to question this. Family name, legacy, caste, bring upon the child a burden that should not exist. So what if one belonged to a certain sect? what is the point of being educated, smart and all the schbang if at the end of the day it is your family name that defines what you are ...

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    1. totally agree with you - esp. in india, its a pity that what you are born with (your name) is often more important, if not as important as who you become!

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  2. Well written. And given the Indian context of caste and status, it is so relevant for us isnt it?
    I would drop the name for sure. For reasons Mahitha stated above. And if my parents had given me a surname that reflected my community or caste I would have got it removed. Patronymic is anyday better (better still initials of both parents).

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    1. WHat's in a name Shakespeare said - he shud have come to India!

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  3. For me--DROP THE NAME. My last name is not with me through eternity. Interesting topic, and movie...and high-lighted meeting of the two who forgive, and try to forget.

    I was told a few years ago, that when something bothers me--I mean BIG-TIME, like an OBSESSION--to NOT DWELL on it. But get VERY busy, engrossed in another part of life, maybe helping others...and one day that obsessin will have slipped away.

    Tried it once. Guess what? IT WORKED! (Have to try it again--LOL!)

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  4. Hi Yuvika,

    I saw the movie after reading your blog. I got goosebumps seeing it.
    Dropping the surname would only solve half the problem. Carrying the guilt of what your family has done is something that you cannot erase.
    I have read so much of WWII and its always been from the Jews point of view and the Nazi officers. I never thought about the children of the Nazis. Very eye opening film.

    Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. I am glad I shared it and you found the movie worth it. Yes, I had also not really pondered about the next generation when reading and watching about the holocaust...

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  5. It's actually easier being such sons/daughters, because whatever they do they are going to be still considered better than that familyname-spoiling-person. And they can't be punished by law for the crimes of their forefathers, but still end up inheriting their property.

    Consider this - If you are the son of Dhirubhai Ambani, you will NEVER ever get as good as your father. That is BAD LUCK :)

    Destination Infinity

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    1. That is an interesting take too. :)

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I appreciate you taking out the time to share your valuable opinions! They mean a lot!

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