|Directed by:||Idit Samet||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2004||Running Time:||52 mins.|
|Language:||Hebrew and German (subtitled)||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||Resources for Children of Holocaust Survivors||Category:||World Jewry|
Can the daughter of Holocaust survivors ever be forgiven for marrying a non-Jewish German man? The ironically-titled documentary All’s Very Well chronicles one woman’s journey to accept the choices she made long ago and seek her mother’s forgiveness.
“Honey, what do you know about the Holocaust?” Idit Samet asks her young son. “That … it was a shitty mess,” he replies. “Does it have anything to do with our life today?” Idit asks. “No,” he answers simply.
When Idit left Israel with her non-Jewish German husband, her Holocaust-surviving parents were aghast. Years later, Idit attempts a rather unorthodox reconciliation with her mother, Zipora, believing that her mother will forgive her for emigrating if she can first forgive the Germans for the Holocaust. But first Idit must learn to purge her own demons.
In fact, Idit’s relationship with the Holocaust is complicated. On the one hand, her son is right. She is so removed from the events of the war that she is able to live happily in Germany, with a German husband, who is just one generation removed from those who stood by the slaughter of Jews. Idit blames her detachment on her mother, who refuses to talk about the war because it is too painful: “Look you can’t allow yourself to get so close to it,” she tells her daughter, “you can’t get in there . . . how would I bear it?” Her silence, however, leaves her daughter feeling distanced from her people’s history.
On the other hand, Idit’s son is incorrect. Every action in Idit’s life is motivated by a need to counteract her mother’s silence and her sense of disconnection by trying to understand the Holocaust. “Why am I [making this film]?” Idit asks. Because “the Holocaust has always been a part of me, or at least I wanted it to be a part of me,” she explains.
Unable to extract answers from her family of survivors, Idit turns to the next best, though very unlikely, source – Nazis. She attends a commemoration ceremony for deceased S.S. Officers. There, she meets a diverse cast of characters, all former Nazis. Some defend their actions during the war, while others show remorse. One former S.S. Officer, Ewald, claims that he was drafted against his will and coerced into carrying out abhorrent orders. He and Idit become fast friends and together break bread with a slew of former S.S. men.
It’s not every day that one sees a Jew sitting beside Nazis. The former S.S. officers know Idit is Jewish, but are still willing to share their stories, even their Nazi songs. The unlikely scene is made all the more disturbing because Idit empathizes with these men, the same people who terrorized her own mother in the war. She is far from antisemitic, but she finds common ground with Ewald – they both have guilty consciences. He made a mistake when he was seventeen, and now he must pay for it. In Idit’s mind, she is in a similar position. She moved to Germany as a young adult, rebuffed her family, and now must face the consequences: she cannot escape the hurt she inflicted upon her mother.
Not surprisingly, Idit’s attempt at reparation falls short. To her astonishment (but not the viewer’s), her newfound friendship with a former Nazi does not move her mother to forgiveness or acceptance. Idit shows Zipora a video of Ewald explaining his past, but upon hearing his testimony and seeing his face, Zipora remains unmoved. There are no tears. There is no anger or even disbelief. Instead, she discusses banalities, such as Idit’s haircut. Once again, Zipora can only cope with the past by permanently distancing herself from it. Before the video is over, Idit is left alone in the living room with her head in her hands.
All’s Very Well reveals the danger in remaining silent about the Holocaust. Due to Zipora’s reticence, Idit will forever feel estranged from her forefathers. Though she is adamant about assuming responsibility for her actions, she wonders if things might have been different if her family had engaged in more open discussion about the Holocaust.
Ultimately, the documentary is a tale about one woman’s search for answers as she tries to uncover her cultural and personal past. Can Jews ever forgive Germans for the Holocaust, the film asks — and should they?