Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drafted in the aftermath of the appalling suffering, death and destruction of World War II, the Declaration expresses humankind’s deepest aspirations for a better future for all people. Fittingly, PBS premiered the film Inheritance last night on P.O.V. – a showcase for independent, non-fiction films. P.O.V.’s website introduces the film with these words:
Imagine watching Schindler’s List and knowing the sadistic Nazi camp commandant played by Ralph Fiennes was your father. Inheritance is the story of Monika Hertwig, the daughter of mass murderer Amon Goeth. Hertwig has spent her life in the shadow of her father’s sins, trying to come to terms with her “inheritance.” She seeks out Helen Jonas, who was enslaved by Goeth and who is one of the few living eyewitnesses to his unspeakable brutality. The women’s raw, emotional meeting unearths terrible truths and lingering questions about how the actions of our parents can continue to ripple through generations.
At the beginning of the film, Monika says, “Every father who is in a war should think about his children… they will never live a normal life.”
During the 60 years since the Declaration was adopted the world has continued to witness appalling acts that violate human dignity. I’ve written a number of times in recent weeks of the stoning of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. I was shakened and sickened to my core by the callous and brutal murder of that little girl, but I didn’t think at all about what the effect of this atrocity would be on the children of those 50 men who threw the stones.
Around the world, men, women, and children still march off to war. Civilian populations are terrorized. Inheritance reminds us that future generations will feel the effects of this violence. Our children live by the choices we make.
You can watch the entire film online until January 4, 2009 at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2008/inheritance/fullfilm.html