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Independent Lens | My Nazi Legacy

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Watch Monday, May 2, 2016 at midnight on WMHT TV

My Nazi Legacy explores the relationship between two men, each the sons of high-ranking Nazi officials, and internationally renowned British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, whose family perished in the Holocaust. Sands met Niklas Frank and Horst van Wächter while researching a book, and as the three travel together on an emotional journey through Europe and the past, the film explores how each of them cope with their own devastating family history.

Niklas Frank has no qualms about denouncing his father, Hans Frank, who was convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg and executed in 1945. After a stint as Hitler's personal lawyer, Hans Frank became Nazi Germany's chief jurist in occupied Poland, and was directly responsible for the mass murder of Jews and Poles. In the film, Niklas shares old photos and never-before-seen home movies, and visits Poland’s Wawel Castle, where a da Vinci painting stolen by his father still hangs.

Horst von Wächter, however, is less clear about the extent of his father’s guilt; despite evidence to the contrary, he stubbornly insists his father was a decent man caught up in an intolerable situation. An Austrian lawyer, Otto von Wächter served as governor of Kraków, Poland, and Galicia, Ukraine, during the war. In Kraków his name was on decrees ordering the expulsion of 68,000 Jews and the sequestration of the city's remaining Jews into the newly created (and infamous) Kraków Ghetto. But unlike Hans Frank, von Wächter was never charged with his crimes.

Philippe Sands’ family were Ukrainian Jews, many of whom were killed as a direct result of Hans Frank and Otto von Wächter’s actions, and, to Sands, the guilt of the fathers of both men is undeniable.

As the last remaining generation to grow up during the atrocities of the Nazi era passes away, the probing documentaryMy Nazi Legacy offers an unforgettable look into the hearts of men who have lived their lives in the shadow of inherited guilt, denial, and shame.

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