Review: ‘What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy’ shows Holocaust’s lasting damage


In the documentary “What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy,” British human-rights lawyer Philippe Sands, grandson of a Holocaust survivor, tracks down and confronts descendants of two senior Nazi officers: Niklas Frank, scion of occupied Poland Gov.-Gen. Hans Frank, and Horst von Wächter, son of Galicia Gov. Otto von Wächter.

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As the film reveals, the atrocities have irrevocably altered lives even one or two generations removed.


Reared by unloving parents stuck in a marriage of convenience, Frank angrily denounced both of them nearly three decades ago by publishing the tell-all “In the Shadow of the Reich.” But Von Wächter, who has fonder memories of his upbringing, remains in denial of the complicity of his dad, who used connections at the Vatican to evade standing trial in Nuremberg.

Sands’ scripted narration sounds detached and dissociated from the grief, frustration and anger he sporadically displays. His agenda eventually becomes an exercise in futility: The more he berates Von Wächter, the more Von Wächter bows up like an obstinate child.

Sands seldom affords himself the same candor, reflection and introspection that he seeks to exact from Frank and Von Wächter. While standing amid the ruins of the Zolkiew Synagogue in Zhovkva, Ukraine, where Sands’ family once worshiped, Frank turns the tables and asks Sands the question that has been on our minds all along: “What’s your feeling?”


“What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles.