THE FLAT

An elderly grandmother dies in Tel Aviv. Her relatives (including her grandson, the director of the documentary) come to the dead woman’s apartment to claim and dispose of the belongings. Amid the clutter of a life, an old newspaper is found, a copy from the 1930’s of Der Angriff, a virulently anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper. On the front page, an article by a leading Nazi of the period about his trip to Palestine, accompanied by a Jewish couple. The couple are the director’s grandparents. Thus begins a fascinating probe into the past that begins with the question: how did two Jews (who eventually fled Germany) end up as the friends of not just a Nazi, but SS officer Leopold von Mildenstein, an SD official who hired Adolf Eichmann and later went to work for Joseph Goebbels. From here, the film peels layer after layer off a mysterious onion, finding answers that only lead to more questions. And as the director does so, his search changes the lives of his mother (who knew some but by no means all of her mother’s secrets) — and of von Mildenstein’s daughter, located alive and well in Germany. The two biggest shockers in this fine exploration of family history and moral confusion are the grandparent’s continued friendship with von Mildenstein and his wife after the war, and the discovery that the director’s great-grandmother had been deported to the killing camp at Theresienstadt. Shot in such a way that the audience learns the story simultaneously with the actual participants, its conversations and realizations seem like scripted drama. That it is reality is all the more powerful. — Jeff Schultz

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