James Moll is the director of Inheritance, which had its broadcast premiere on December 10. The film inspired many viewers to write in with questions and to share their thoughts about the film. Read on as he responds to some of the many questions and comments that have been submitted.
Dear POV viewers,
I’m overwhelmed by the level of thoughtfulness that has gone into all the feedback Inheritance has received on this POV blog. Having been so close to this story, and to these two women, I honestly had no idea what to expect from public reaction. It’s an emotionally charged subject, and it was often challenging to work on the editing of this film for the better part of a year. Now that the film is out there, and Helen, Monika and I are hearing from you, I can’t easily express how much it means to receive so much support — especially for Monika and Helen, who have both carried a unique burden throughout their lives. So, please, accept my sincere thanks for all of your kind words, questions, comments, and for sharing stories of your own. We will continue to read these blogs for as long as people continue to post. New viewers are watching the streaming film from the POV website every day, and the film is still being shown on television through PBS affiliates around the country. We hope to hear from you.
December 18, 2008
D. Mark Fette asks: Did the making of the film affect how you view the roles of parents and their children as they strive to form a family?
James Moll: Making Inheritance certainly has an impact on the way I view the responsibility of parents. So much of the way we live our lives impacts our children, and even our grandchildren. It’s hard to imagine as we go about our daily lives, but there are decisions that every person makes throughout life that will ripple through at least one generation, if not multiple generations. Of course, Amon Goeth is an extreme case. But he is just one example of how the repercussions of our actions don’t die with us. They live on.
Kitty Ruskin asks: I was curious as to whether the Villa was now a private home or is it maintained as a museum as part of the former concentration camp? Congratulations on a story that we all need to hear. We cannot file that horrendous episode away in the back of our minds. As the brave Helena said, we cannot forget. Thank you for a compelling program.
James: The villa is now privately owned. When we filmed there in 2004, there was only one occupant — a woman who had only furnished and used one small part of the villa. The upstairs was empty and in disrepair, as you can see in the film. I believe she rented the space from the owner of the property, who initially wasn’t aware of the property’s past when he purchased it. Because of the occasional person who stops by to see the villa which was immortalized by Schindler’s List, the owner is now trying to gather support to preserve the house and create a museum.
Rhonda asks: This is an incredible and moving film that deals with a devastating subject in a thoughtful and honorable way. Is there any way for us to contact Helen and Monika via this site? I know it would give me great pleasure to tell them how much it meant to me to share, even if only for a moment, their daily pain and struggle, and to see the world from their eyes.
James:I know that Monika and Helen would be very pleased to hear from people who have now heard their story. I recall Monika saying after the filming that she is certain “people in the United States will hate me.” There was no doubt in her mind that people would see her as her father’s daughter. And for Helen, the decision to meet Monika was so brave, and so difficult. When I hear each of these women speak with people who have seen the film, it’s clear that the positive support goes a long way. On this POV website, a section has been created for people to post messages specifically for Helen and Monika.
Angelsings asks: My question regards the actual film footage of Goeth’s hanging execution that he used in the movie. Did you include it to punctuate or accentuate the karma of Goeth’s heinous crimes or to provide some type of vicarious justice for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust such as ‘pound of flesh’ or ‘an eye for an eye or for what purpose? I felt this segment of the film exacerbated the extreme trauma already being foisted upon them and endured by them. Please consider deleting or editing this. Thank you for this life-altering film!
James: When I started making the film, I was under the impression that there was no existing film footage of Amon Goeth. When Monika mentioned the hanging execution footage during her interview, I honestly didn’t think I would ever use it — but I wanted to see it. Our producer Chris Pavlick tracked down the footage at an archive in Poland. When I saw it, I felt very conflicted about it. On the one hand, I felt it was an important part of the story, showing how society chose its form of justice. On the other hand, I found it difficult to witness the taking of a life — despite knowing how many lives this man thoughtlessly took form others. I decided to include the footage so viewers could make up their own minds, draw their own conclusions, and possibly go through the same mental process I went though. Just as the themes of the film are very complex, so is this execution footage.
Bernice writes: All of the comments posted for Inheritance summed up the emotions I felt watching the documentary. The two women were extraordinary. I know that this must have been filmed a while ago. What happened to Helen and Monica?
James: Inheritance was filmed at the end of 2004. Since that time, Monika and Helen saw each other only once, at a taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah had seen the documentary and invited them to talk about their experiences. Although there is much mutual respect, the relationship is not one that continues on a regular basis — except as this moment of time repeats as more and more people see this film. And then just recently, in December 2008, Monika and Helen and I attended a screening of Inheritance in New York City, sponsored by the National WWII Museum of New Orleans and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. After the screening, we had a discussion with the audience. Video excerpts from that discussion are available for viewing here on the POV website. Also on this POV website, there is a page with a more detailed update of Helen and Monika.
Rebecca writes: Did Helen remarry (new name Rosenzweig)?
James: Yes, Helen did remarry some time after the death of Joseph Jonas. For a time, she used the last name Jonas-Rosenzweig, which is why you hear Monika in the film ask for “Helen Rosenzweig” during her phone call in Krakow to Helen’s hotel. Helen now goes only by the name of her first husband, Jonas.
Bruce Katlin writes: James: thank you for such a wonderful film. Is there an email address to contact Monika Hertwig?
James: If you would like to communicate with Monika or Helen, there is now a page on this POV website where you can leave messages for them. I would certainly encourage anyone and everyone to write their thoughts and greetings to both women. It would mean a lot to both of them.
Inheritance is still being broadcast on some PBS stations. Check your local listings. The film will also be available in its entirety online through January 4, 2009 on the POV website.