Gaining Perspective

03 Jan 2013

As genealogists, one of the first things we learn is that you must be prepared to find anything in your family. There are people who may stir up controversy. Some family members may view their actions with disapproval, while others may be perfectly fine. Some ancestors may be criminals of one level or another. But how do you deal with ancestors when the name is Goering, or Himmler, or Hoess.

The Holocaust was the worst mass murder in human history. Millions of people were killed. Jews, Slavs, Poles, Gays, Romani, Freemasons, Trade Unionists, Communists, Socialists, and more, were all the targets of Hitler and his inner circle. While these victims are well-known, there are lesser-known innocent victims. These are the children, grandchildren, and other descendants of Hitler’s inner circle and other prominent Nazis. Men who were in charge of the implementation of the Final Solution.

Some of these grew up with a surname that is indelibly linked to horror and murder. Many of them grew up with no idea of their connection to such atrocities. Only after coming to adulthood and questioning what they were told did they discover the horrific deeds of their family.

“More than sixty years after World War II, a small group of German men and women are coming to grips with crimes of their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers, all in the name of building a “brighter future for their children.” Adolf Hitler had no children, and the Goebbels children died in Hitler’s bunker with their parents. But what about the families of Göering and Himmler and Hans Frank? How do their descendants deal with the legacy left to them by their parents? What about the children who still remember whispered conversations between their parents, and, in some instances, still remember a pat on the head from the Führer himself?”


Hitler's Children


Israelie director and producer Chanoch Ze’evi is a descendant of Holocaust survivors. He has created a documentary about the family members of Hitler’s inner circle, and how they deal with the legacy of evil. Hitler’s Children is a powerful exploration of these people and how they deal with their heritage on a daily basis. Katrin Himmler, for example, grandniece of Heinrich Himmler, married an Israeli man who is the son of a Holocaust survivor. Subscribers to Time magazine can read a recent story about her from the November 26, 2012, issue online.

The movie has been playing at film festivals around the world for more than a year. It was recently picked up for distribution in U.S. theaters in 2013-14. There is a powerful trailer for the movie on Vimeo. You can read more about the film at You can even of the film if you don’t want to wait for the theatrical release.

We all have things in our ancestry that can create personal turmoil for us. It is difficult not to judge our ancestors. But, quite frankly, watching even a bit of this film is enough to put things in perspective for me about my own family. At least I needn’t deal with being a descendant or close relative of one of Hitler’s circle. Hermann Goering’s grandniece and grandnephew went so far as to have themselves sterilized, to ensure that the line would not be carried forward. Can you imagine what it took to make such a decision?