Audio: Israeli Filmmaker Interviews the Children of Nazis

In his latest and most controversial film, Chanoch Zeevi travels to Auschwitz with the grandson of Rudolf Hess.
1/18/2013, 2:41 PM

A7 Radio's "Life Lessons with Judy Simon" with Judy Simon
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Chanoch Zeevi grew up in the modern orthodox town of Kfar Haroeh, where tolerance and acceptance were the rule rather than the exception. In his elementary school class, religious and secular children studied together, and his class included not only Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Yemenite children, but also one Muslim girl, Nadia.

It was only once Chanoch moved on to high school that he realized how unusual it was for a Muslim girl to have studied in a religious Jewish school. When he finished his army service, he studied at the then-newly-opened Maaleh Film School for religious students. Of the twenty or so films Chanoch has produced and directed, Nadia's Friends, based on the 40 year reunion he planned to get reacquainted with his old classmates, won the Tolerance Prize at the Berlin Jewish Film Festival.

Chanoch's films are all documentary in nature, but there is a definite story line. He gets film ideas based on things that move his soul and stay in his mind for a long time. His latest film is Hitler's Children, winner of the IDFA First Choice Award in 2011, in which he interviews the children and grandchildren of some of the big-name Nazis.

"The idea came after my researcher in Germany called me with the phone number of Hitler's secretary. 'She will probably slam the phone on you, but you can try,' he told me." Chanoch couldn't bring himself to call her on that day, and waited until the next. After a long silence, the woman agreed to see them.

Normally, Chanoch does not begin filming until a tremendous amount of research has been done. In this case, he was afraid she would change her mind, so he quickly traveled to Munich to meet her. "When I came into the apartment, I saw a small table with an old typewriter. I thought to myself, 'What documents did this woman type on this very machine?'"

While Hitler's secretary expressed no regret, and in fact showed admiration for the Fuhrer, the children and grandchildren who appear in Chanoch's film feel otherwise. They grew up in the shadow of their murderous ancestors. Many have broken ties with their families. Other descendants refused to appear in the film, and Chanoch explains that this is also relevant. "There are still people out there who believe like the Nazis did. It is very relevant, even today."

Find out how Chanoch closed a 60 year circle when he appeared at a screening of the film in Warsaw, the town his grandmother left when she came to Palestine against her parents wishes. "I said goodbye for her, because she was always sad that she never said goodbye."

Tune in to meet a sensitive and intelligent filmmaker, and to hear some of the inside stories of the making of his film "Hitler's Children." Not to be missed!

Judy Simon is the host of the show Life Lessons and the mother of six children. After almost 20 years of teaching English and special education, Judy now serves as the Beit El Tourism Coordinator, and organizes tours of the site of Jacob's Dream in Beit El. Check out Beit El's website: and "like" the Beit El Heritage Center Facebook page: To "like" the Hebrew page: Life Lessons explores fascinating people from all walks of life and follows their stories of lessons learned along the way. The Life Lessons podcast airs every Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Israel time on Israel National Radio.
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