Face to face with the lost children of Germany
Not in a religious way – we didn’t have a schedule where we jumped between religions, making a visit to Judaism one day out of eight, although that might be an interesting experience, now that I think of it. My parents were devoted atheists. What she referred to was blood quality. Genes. My father’s grandmother was born Jewish. Admittedly she had converted as she got married, and my mother wasn’t Jewish at all. But nevertheless: there was something that connected me to the Jewish people, if nothing else my looks, as people used to tell me.
According to the family history, this particular branch originated from Poland. I didn’t know anything about it; the roots had been cut off as my grandmother died when my father was still a young child. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, the fact that there was this however thin and remote connection. I kept thinking about it, especially when I heard about what had happened during the war.
“You would have been in a risky position if you had lived back then”, my mother told me. And this got my head spinning. “What if…?” What if my ancestor never had moved to Sweden? What if my grand-grand-mother hadn’t converted? What if Germany had won the war? Would I have been a Jew? Would one eighth have been enough to send me off to the death camps? Would I have been alive today?
And so it came that read every Holocaust themed novel I could come across, over and over again. Anne Frank’s Diary, The Holocaust and Playing for Time were among my favourites, later on followed by Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus – to this day the best I’ve read in the genre.
During all those years I never reflected all that much over the situation immediately after the war, and I couldn’t have cared less for what happened to the people on the losing side, the Nazis. Were they overwhelmed by shame as the nature of the “final solution” dawned upon them? Or did they still mourn their fallen leader in their hearts? I couldn’t have cared less. My entire focus was on the victims and few people who miraculously had survived despite all odds
This was the luggage that I brought with me as I went to see Lore, which is a recent Australian (I know, it sounds weird, I don’t understand it either) movie taking place in the post-war Germany. A group of siblings, ranging from toddlers to teenagers, try to survive from day to day as their Nazi parents end up in jail. I don’t know if my Holocaust obsession had something to do with it, but it was a thought provoking – and not entirely easy watch.
As a parent my first instinct was to root for those poor, lost kids, innocent victims of the brainwashing they’ve been exposed to. You can’t blame the toddlers for repeating songs they’ve been taught to sing. How could they possibly know about anything else? But I have to admit that my patience got through hard trials as I watched the oldest sister, a teenager, clinging to the horrendous views on Jews. Not even after being rescued by a Jew is she ready to rethink. The journey they’re about to make is long and laborious, both physically and mentally.
What makes this movie stand out is that it carefully avoids any oversimplifications or stereotypes. Told in a different manner, it could easily have become a predictable tear-jerker, writing the message on your nose about how those Nazi kids are getting de-programmed. But it never takes that route. It stays low-key and therefor also believable, never allowing me to sort people into black and white boxes without giving it any further thought, which I admit that I’ve done in the past.
Lore stayed with me for a very long time after I watched it. I have no doubt that it will end up far up on my top list of 2013.
Lore (Cate Shortland, AU/GE 2012) My rating: 5/5