The opening line of a harrowing new doc “Germans and Jews” is a very respectable looking young man saying “We were taught to believe that there were two kinds of people in the world, Jews and Nazis” and the film goes on to elucidate this. “Germans and Jews” just opened yesterday and deals with this enormous topic in trenchant, arresting ways.
This sharp, quickly paced documentary is a must-see for anyone contemplating the Holocaust on any level, and especially what came after. While there have been many, many films chronicling the atrocities committed under the Third Reich against Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other minorities, “Germans and Jews” concerns itself with what happened to Germans, Germany and the Jews, AFTER the war was declared over.
“The National Trauma” as it is called here seems never-ending, for both sides of the equation. Yes, many thousands of Jews emigrated to the US and to the newly-forming state of Israel, the film also reveals that many Jews returned to German and that Berlin is noted to have the fastest growing Jewish population.
German today is NOT the Germany of Hitler, the filmmakers are careful to point out, and is considered quite the democratic, desirable country of choice decades later.
There’s also the question of denial, which evidently a large portion of the German population is holding to, even to this day. “It never happened.” “We don’t talk about it.” “It is never spoken of.” “We didn’t know.” We hear this from the non-Jewish Germans again and again as startling and shocking as these statements seem. All sides are represented of this very complicated question and “Germans and Jews” is essential viewing if only to see how clueless, even today, many ordinary Germans are.Or say they are.