Enkel is German for grandson – and that is what Rainer Höß is. His grandfather was Rudolf Höß, commandant in the Auschwitz concentration camp for three and a half year from 1940. He was the one behind the expansion of the camp to be divided into three areas and for the development of the most efficient – gas and burning – way for the mass murders. At the Nürnberg trials Höß expressed:
“I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead…”
Another holocaust story… I thought, when executive producer of the film
Vanja Kranjac talked to me about “Enkel”, as we met in Belgrade a couple of weeks ago. I watched it and yes this production of RTV, the public broadcaster of Vojvodina, is shocking and important even for one, who has watched holocaust survivor stories again and again for decades. Shocking and important because it is so well made, and because of its two protagonists, whose stories the film is built on.
Rainer Höß is the one, who leads the story. He never met his grandfather, who was hanged in 1947, but he cut the links to and left the Höß family, when he was 15 and made it his mission to tell about the horrors committed in Auschwitz and the “normal” family life led in the villa next door – separated by a wall – to the camp. He even has a conversation with the woman, who with her husband lives in the house today. He has written a book, he has been interviewed all over, he takes part in peace marches, he makes tours in Auschwitz…
The film makes Rainer Höß meet the holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, who was 10, when she and her twin sister were in the camp, kept alive to be subject to experiments performed by the infamous doctor Mengele. She – who has been part of several documentaries – is a fantastic storyteller, when she recalls in details the time in the camp, where the twin’s parents and big sisters were killed. It is obvious that this 84 year old charismatic Romanian by origin, now living in the USA, has told her story numerous times, she has the sense for a dramaturgy that leads to her personal forgiveness towards the Nazis and their crimes.
Less convincing in that respect maybe, is Rainer Höß, whose message is clear, to the world we live in now: “Never Again”! But it is not easy to stand up against Eva Mozes Kor, who was there, who suffered and survived, and who accepts when younger Rainer asks her to be his granma!
The director manages to keep the viewer’s attention, maybe the parallel editing between the two stories is a bit too mechanic until they meet, but it never disturbs the overall strong impression of a documentary that combines a journalistic archive research with fine documentary language.
Serbia, 2018, 82 mins.