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Haunted by History


Two women come to terms with the horrors of the Holocaust in a new documentary

James Moll, Photo by Alan Mercer

Audiences in New York and New Orleans recently got to witness screenings of a very special documentary sponsored by the National World War II Museum. Titled Inheritance, the docudrama, by award-winning filmmaker James Moll (Price for Peace, Survivors of the Holocaust), had its national premiere last month on the PBS series P.O.V., which showcases the best, boldest and most innovative nonfiction programs every year. This stunning documentary easily met those qualifications.

The film tells an amazing tale of survival and the journey to healing for two women, Helen Jonas and Monika Hertwig. Both lived through the horrific events of the Holocaust: Jonas survived it, while Hertwig was born into it. Moll’s documentary explores how their histories and emotional scars hauntingly intersect.

After Nazi soldiers kidnapped her father, Jonas was taken, along with her mother and two sisters, to the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow, Poland. There, sadistic camp commander Amon Goeth—notoriously portrayed by actor Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List—ordered her to work as his personal house slave. She endured and witnessed unimaginable horrors until being rescued two years later by Oskar Schindler.

Hertwig is the daughter of Amon Goeth. Although she never knew her father, she was raised to believe him an honorable man. Only after seeing Schindler’s List did she learn the truth, that he had murdered thousands of innocent people. Inheritance brings together these two women in a heartrending encounter as they search for truth, meaning and resolution.

In line with its mission to “preserve the courage and sacrifice of the WWII generations” and to maintain an open dialogue about the war’s importance, the National World War II Museum sponsored a showing of Inheritance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York as well as private showings here in New Orleans. Moll, who is friends with Hugh Ambrose, son of museum founder and historian Stephen E. Ambrose, spoke at the museum’s conference on film and WWII as part of the New Orleans Film Festival.

This is an important film to see. Kacie Hill, of the National World War II Museum, says, “It is an amazing story not just about events during the war, but how they are still relevant today, and we were pleased to be associated with it.”

The DVD of Inheritance will be available for purchase on January 20 from Docurama Films. To order a copy, visit www.docurama.com.