James Moll’s “Inheritance” (2006) has its own questions, focusing as it does on the daughter of Nazi commandant Amon Goeth, now in her 60s, on whom (she says) the grim legacy of her psychopathic father did not make much of an impression until she saw Ralph Fiennes play him in “Schindler’s List.” This fact alone could speak volumes about postwar German society, if you let it, but in reality, it simply speaks volumes about the speaker, Monika Hertwig, an astonishingly clueless, dim, mousey, crushed woman, coming late in life to seem to be a victim of Nazism in her own right. But Moll’s documentary doesn’t merely glare at her; it conjoins her with Helen Jonas, a Boca Raton septuagenarian who worked as a teenage servant in Goeth’s villa for nearly two years, and who was rescued by Oskar Schindler.
When the two women meet on the grounds of the Plaszów concentration camp (in a rather craven set-up by Moll), a new kind of Holocaust-doc dynamic emerges: the life-force Jew consoling the guilt-shattered German. It’s a fascinating dialectic for a number of reasons, but “Inheritance” comes down to the women: they’re fascinating characters — a baffled and bruised wheyface shuddering under the assault of impossible responsibility (she was a baby when her father was hanged by fellow Nazis for embezzlement; Moll shows us the film of the execution), and an unintimidated, bright-eyed lioness in a track suit, ready for “closure” but very aware that her long life is permanently scarred by her own survival. Moll (a Best Documentary Oscar winner for the Holocaust-themed “The Last Days”) doesn’t have to do much more than get out of the way.
[Additional photo: “Blind Mountain,” Kino International, 2007]
“Blind Mountain” (Kino Video) and “Inheritance” (Docurama) are now available on DVD.